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Educators aim to make students college, career ready
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NCSS's College and Career Readiness Advisors tour BD's distribution center. - photo by Jackie Gutknecht

COVINGTON, Ga. - Newton County School System has added three grant-funded positions geared to making local students college and career ready through a better understanding of the need in the local workforce and opportunities for continuing education after graduation.

 NCSS Career Technical Agricultural Education and Workforce Innovation Director Tim Schmitt said the goal of the team is to explain the opportunities available to students and set up experiences to help students reach their post-graduation goals.

“They’re really boots on the ground, in the schools, working with kids, families, teachers, counselors – really anybody they can share the word with,” he said.

The team spent Tuesday exploring all of the local college campuses, including Emory at Oxford College, Georgia Piedmont Technical College and Georgia State University’s Newton Campus. Wednesday the team joined the Covington/Newton County Economic Development staff to learn about the employment opportunities locally and toured some of the county’s largest employers – Shire and BD.

“I think a lot about our position is bridging all of the stakeholders in the community because all of them have a true stake from the parents, to the teachers, obviously to the companies that are really investing. With parents, that’s typically their biggest investment as well and working with the students and families and trying to expose to them that are right here in our back yard and it ultimately goes full circle and our students are able to also come back and contribute in our community,” Tasia Ellis, college and career readiness advisor, said.

Schmitt said preparing students for the next step is vital for the school system.

“We know a bunch of our students want to go off to college after high school and they eventually are going to be in a career – whether they went to college or not – and so there’s such a need for people to understand what that means, especially in an area like this where we have a lot of first generation college goers or a lot of people that don’t understand all of these ‘boxes,’ or companies, in Newton County,” he said. “We understand retail, we understand the hotels we get to go into and the restaurants, but Newton County is such a rich workforce area in places the regular public doesn’t get to see, so we’re trying to connect the dots between advising and helping to build understanding and knowledge in the kids, in the parent, in even our own faculty and staff about what those opportunities look like.”

NCSS also partnered with the ED office over the summer to help teachers better understand the job opportunities locally through manufacturing externships.

Twelve Newton County educators spent the second week of their summer vacation participating in Connect Newton, a program that allowed them to complete externships at three local manufacturers, getting a firsthand look at the culture of the businesses and gaining insights that can help students find good jobs locally if that’s what they are looking to do after graduation.

Schmitt said the idea of the program was to give teachers an inside look at the businesses around the county so they could share they learned with students and parents. Schmitt, a veteran educator, praised the partnership that the school system has forged with local business.

“This is the first place I’ve been where I felt like we weren’t wrestling to get companies, and teachers and schools together. It was such a breath of fresh air four or five years ago when I started at Newton County to see that I wasn’t chasing people who didn’t want to talk to me,” he said.

“A lot of that has to do with the groundwork that the chamber, the economic development office, the folks sitting in this room have done before I got here. I’m eternally grateful for the partnership that you guys have been doing for years. This isn’t the first time that the school system and our local industry have gotten together and this is certainly an evolution of that.”