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Career and technical education teachers from three traditional high schools toured two of Wilson’s largest companies this week as part of the Wilson Education Partnership Career Connections program.
“WEP’s mission is to connect the community with the school system, so what we are trying to do with the help of a Merck grant and this Career Connections Program is let our teachers know what is in the community,” said WEP’s executive director, Robin Williams. “They will know about the business, but more importantly, they will be able to build relationships so that if they are in a class and they encounter a student who is interested in something we have seen, they have a phone number and they can reach out and find out if they are hiring and if they are, what does the student need to do. Are they taking the right classes? What do they get paid an hour?”
There are a number of industries and businesses in Wilson that offer jobs to students right out of high school.
“They would like to mold them and work with them, and if the case is right, send them back to schools and grow with their company,” Williams said. “It’s about educating the teachers and so they know what’s out there. When they go back to the classroom they can talk about what actual skills these students need and what jobs relate to the class that they are teaching. These relationships are huge.”
Michael Jones, president of 3C Store Fixtures, spoke with the teachers about the products the company produces and their processes.
“It allows them to see how what they teach is put into daily practice,” Jones said. “We are introducing teachers to what we do so they take it back to the classroom.”
The company takes on several interns each year.
“We have seven people in this company right now who have critical jobs that started working here when they were probably 14, 15 or 16 through the summers of high school,” Jones said. “Will Webb, the one who is doing this tour, is one of them.”
Webb, an industrial engineer who has been working at the company since 2001, graduated from Wilson Christian Academy.
“As the world is changing, the students really don’t know what is happening at the manufacturing environment, so if they can get in and see first hand what we are doing here it will make them better equipped to relay that to the kids,” Webb said.
Craig Moore, a Beddingfield High School carpentry teacher, said the tour gave him the opportunity to see what was on the inside of the walls of the production facility.
Moore was given a realistic idea of what a student might be able to step into and how what they are learning might apply to what they might be able to do at 3C.
“It is just opening my eyes to what is right here in Wilson,” Moore said. “I am just amazed of the degree of technology they are using and how global these guys are. It is really just waking me up on what I can tell these kids.”
The group had lunch at Wilson Community College where they met the college teachers who teach the courses that relate to the subjects they teach in high school.
“First and foremost, I think it is a great opportunity for our community businesses like S.T. Wooten and the Wilson County school system to tour our facility, discuss the challenges and opportunities and bond with the school teachers and leaders to give the students every opportunity to work in Wilson that are career ready,” said Hank Butts, a vice president at S.T. Wooten. “From our standpoint, we will continue working with the Wilson County Schools students and teachers and leaders to interact and provide guidance where needed for community businesses and students to be successful. I think we have to have a close bond and relationship with these school students for these that don’t go on to college.”
Butts said the company has a proactive stance to present the idea that there are careers in Wilson.
“I think as long as other businesses will get on board and interact and be a part of the school system, it is a home run for all of us,” Butts said. “Unfortunately, college isn’t for everyone. It is somewhat expensive, and a lot of kids have a lot of debt when they finish college and you are still not guaranteed a primo job, but education is first. I don’t discount that we all want our kids to go to college but the trade market and being able to work outside, whatever it is, you can make a good living.”