By Lisa Winton, Winton Machine Co-Founder
There’s major buzz these days about workforce development. What does this mean and when does it begin? While I’m not a teacher, I’ve learned business owners need to be part of their local primary education. This engagement helps to build a foundation for workforce development. As employers, we know there are desirable hard and soft skills students need to be successful. The best employees have both aptitude and attitude to get the job done and on time.
I’ve seen firsthand a student culture of instant gratification and zero accountability. The school administrators and teachers are working to reverse this trend. And parents need to be supportive of their efforts. Here’s an actual example of what not to do. A parent asked for a daily pass to excuse their student from being 10 minutes tardy. School started too early for them to arrive on time? Is this well-meaning parent setting their child up for failure in the work place? Unfortunately, yes.
Business owners and leaders know the skill gaps we’re encountering. Identifying the problem is half the solution, right? Here’s another part of the solution. The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Principal for a Day Program. The program matches business leaders with principals of elementary, middle and high schools. This is no small undertaking. At last count, Gwinnett County had 143 schools with over 180,000 students.
This week I participated for the sixth year. My first year I realized a school principal is a CEO with a senior management team and a large staff to manage. The larger the school, the larger the staff. The school I visited this year educates over 2,700 students. Discovery High School has created academies which are career pathway programs.
I recently spent my day at the Business and Entrepreneurship Academy. Since principals do a lot of walking, I wore comfortable shoes. First period starts at 7:00 AM. While the students were still waking up, they logged into the SBA website to work on their business plans. The students chuckled when I shared we had to go to a local library and watch VHS tapes on how to start a business. These students cannot begin to imagine a world before the Internet.
We had a brief, but engaging conversation about ethics and a recent choice where I turned down $500. When given the scenario and asked what they would do, the students said they’d take the money. After I explained why I turned down the money, they understood I had more to lose than the money. Relationships and reputation matter more.
I had the opportunity to see some of the products the kids invented. The academy has great shared spaces and resources available to the students. Next, we visited the engineering classes. The students engaged in hands-on learning projects on and off the computer. I watched them build structures out of paper and work on a Mars Project in AutoCad Inventor. All the activities teach students to be problem solvers which is an attribute of someone we want to hire. I saw some of them drafting projects by hand. Many of the students had only recently learned how to use a tape measure.
I sat in on other classes, attended department meetings and observed testing reviews. I learned about senior professional development for staff members, too. We all agreed it was important to attract more students to enroll in the academies. The academies are part of the workforce development solution. Students need to have opportunities to learn, explore and experience necessary job skills for sucessful career paths.
I encourage all business and community leaders to support their local school programs where students can receive a foundation for their workforce development. Please comment about other workforce development solutions. Be sure to share your experience if you’ve participated in a Principal for a Day Program. Thank you!
To see some pictures of my day, visit the Winton Machine Facebook Album.