Wednesday, December 8, 2010
By JOEL TURNER - Staff Writer
Students in career and technical education courses at Franklin County High School learn more than just technology knowledge and skills.
The curriculum is not limited to the details and the skills of auto mechanics, building trades, heating and air conditioning, masonry, occupational health, business and other career courses.
As part of the curriculum, the students also learn basic work and workplace readiness skills, according to Mark Church, director of career and technical education for the school division.
They learn effective speaking and listening skills, reading and writing effectively, a positive work ethic, teamwork skills, professional ethics and safety skills.
In fact, studies reveal that these workplace readiness skills are just as important to employers as technology skills.
Church cites a recent report by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia about the importance of basic work skills.
The researchers at UVA found:
"Employers of all types in Virginia and across the nation want workers with basic skills, including speaking and listening; professional ethics; reading and writing; and a positive work ethic.
"In Virginia, these skills are more likely to be rated as essential than technology skills.
"Over 20 years, the importance of these skills to Virginia employers has not changed. In fact, they may be more important now than before.
"Employers want these skills in students coming to work from high school, from community colleges and from four-year colleges.
The UVA report reflects comments from more than 300 employers from a range of industrial sectors.
The research finds that employers expect families and communities to help students gain these essential skills, but they also look to the schools to be involved.
"These workplace skills include attitudes and behaviors often learned from family and prior work experience, but they can also be cultivated in well-ordered school environments and through curriculum designed to address them, such as the curriculum priorities in career and technical education courses in Virginia's schools," said Achsah Carrier, co-author of the UVA report.
The Weldon Cooper report recommends the enhancement of workplace readiness instruction in schools, including a call for a more robust and sustained involvement of Virginia employers.
At FCHS, Church said that the career and technical education programs teach workplace readiness as part of their curriculum.
Church said that Fletcher Boone, a vocational teacher at FCHS, teaches workforce readiness skills in his class a little each day.
"Every day, I make an effort to demonstrate a positive work ethic personally, as well as combine any skill we are learning with an example of values, such as punctuality, dependability, honesty and ambition," said Donna Bowers, COE/Marketing Coordinator at FCHS.
"These are critical skills that, when demonstrated, will make a student's employment not only lucrative, but also enjoyable. Likewise, they will probably be a major factor in keeping one's job."
With a basic knowledge, Bowers said, most entry-level job skills can be taught.
"However, unless the worker comes to work, works an honest hour for an hour's pay, has a good attitude, respects the people they work with, leave their personal drama at home, the job may be short lived," she said.
"My daddy taught me to work hard and not moan while in the tobacco fields," Bowers said.
"In today's workforce, you better think that the basic workplace readiness skills are important," she added, if you want to keep a job.
Marsha Lopez, chairperson of the Business Department a FCHS, said that workforce skills are taught in the business classes.
"They are part of our competencies in almost every course. We do feel they are extremely important for our students' success in the real world," Lopez said.
Lopez, who teaches two Teachers for Tomorrow courses, said her students learn workforce skills specific to being a teacher.
"They learn how to do lesson plans, various teaching techniques, classroom management techniques and more," she said. "They are then placed with a mentor teacher during the second semester and they work with that teacher in the actual classroom setting."
This gives the students a taste of what it's like to actually teach and be in the classroom with students on a daily basis, Lopez said.
Lopez, who also teaches Entrepreneurship/Small Business Management, said that the students in this class prepare actual business plans that could be used in a real world setting.
"They complete a marketing plan and true financial projections for a business," she said. "This demonstrates to them what it would be like to try to gain financing to actually open a business."
Lopez said the importance of basic workforce readiness skills can't be ignored, especially when unemployment is so high. Employers want and demand high-quality workers who are punctual and professional with excellent communication skills.
The courses taught in the business department at FCHS strive to stress these concepts to students and fully prepare them for success both in college and the workplace, Lopez said.