Educators can sometimes be so busy preparing students for the workplace that they actually lose sight of what it’s like in the workplace.
That’s where the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s umbrella workforce education initiative, Blackboards 2 Business, comes in. It seeks to get teachers and counselors out of the schools and into the workplace while immersing business owners and managers into the school system so they can compare notes.
“The bottom line for this program is just getting everybody in the conversation,” Chamber CEO Tammy Shepherd said Tuesday following the program’s Teachers in Business event, where 40 Columbia County elementary and middle school counselors visited area companies ranging from ADP and EDTS to Doctors Hospital and Georgia Iron Works.
“The reason to go to school is to get a good career,” Shepherd said. “We just need to make sure educators are aware of how students can do that and see what trends are happening in the workplace.”
Partially funded by grants through the chamber’s two-year-old nonprofit foundation, the program works both ways: Shepherd noted that many business leaders were unaware that the county has 29 “CTAE,” or career, technical and agricultural education, pathways ranging from welding and automotive repair to graphic design and cybersecurity.
Other initiatives in the Blackboards 2 Business program include Principal for a Day, where executives shadow a school principal; STEM, where local businesses visit with middle schools to promote science, technology, engineering and math careers; and Students in Business, where students get to interface with area professionals.
Dale Dye, regional site executive for Unisys, was one of several participants in Tuesday’s Teachers in Business event. He said he considers the program as an investment.
“We are at the point where we have to home-grow our talent and keep it here in Augusta,” he said. “I feel like I’m helping invest in the future of my company and its ability to hire by reaching out to the middle school students and on up and getting them excited about the type of work we do and the environment we have here.”
Dye said the school counselors who visited the company’s downtown customer service and cybersecurity center – considered one of the most modern office spaces in Augusta – were surprised by the facility’s progressive appearance as well as the importance obtaining a federal security clearance to do certain types of government cyber work.
“One of the eye-opening pieces for them was how hard it is to get a security clearance, and the need to start driving that message to middle school students,” he said, noting that minor infractions and even social media posts can come back to haunt students as adult job seekers. “By the time they get to high school, it might be too late. But if we can get them early enough, we might get lucky.”
Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or firstname.lastname@example.org