The scene seems familiar to so many. People approach the table in suits and in skirts with heels and hose. They then sit down, make eye contact and confidentially state who they were. Conversation naturally begins as they genuinely inquire who the people next to them were.
From there they unfold their napkins in similar fashion and enjoy a dinner of chicken and vegetables in a manner that allows them to have a conversation in between bites and remain engaged with others at the table.
The described scene wasn’t a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce or a video filmed sometime in the 1950s. It was a dinner held at the Newton College and Career Academy on Tuesday and the majority of participants were high school juniors and seniors.
It was the annual Aspiring Young Professionals Evaluation Dinner and it was the culmination of months of classes for students in the Newton County School System’s Work-Based Learning program.
Students were able to network with professional leaders from around the county, but also were evaluated and graded on skills that are highly regarded by employers worldwide. It wasn’t the traditional test of solving for X or remembering which date in history. It was a soft skills test.
With answers to almost all we inquire available at a press of a button, practical applications are becoming more valuable. Let’s face it, when was the last time you were asked during a job interview what the heaviest element in the periodic table is?
It is not only the ability to convey the knowledge we have that employers are interested in. It is also how we present that answer and incorporate it with the rest of our team’s thinking is what separates us. Every hiring manager judges candidates on making eye contact, engaging in casual conversation and confidence levels in a hand shake. That’s the message the Work Based Learning program was trying to get across.
Newton’s Work Based Learning program has produced some fine leaders for the future and some exceptionally capable workers in the present, including two here at The Covington News. At Eastside, Alcovy, Newton high schools and the Newton College and Career Academy, these students are taught skills that end up putting them a little ahead on the path to a prominent working career.
One student, who is also an employee at The News, is taking a class at NCCA on sports and entertainment marketing, which enabled him and his classmates to create a marketing campaign for the school system’s IT department. That project included creating a brochure, website and social media campaign.
Another student at NCCA is taking a class entirely on EKG, learning how to read the monitor and where to place the diodes.
Yet another student from Alcovy has been paired with a mentor at a dealership mechanic shop and has been offered a spot in their training program upon graduation.
Knowing how to perform algebra and being familiar with biology and chemistry are important skills, but learning things tailored specifically for a future career is going above and beyond.
We are proud of those students who want to go above and beyond, selecting and setting out on a path to distinguish themselves. That path may not stay straight for all of them but the skills they develop are irreplaceable.
We are proud of the coordinators and facilitators are each high school that work tirelessly to provide unique opportunities tailored to each student.
We are proud of our school system for facilitating this platform for education and creating strong community partnerships in which to do it.
We are proud of the parents of those students for challenging them, supporting them and, no doubt, providing role models for them to want to achieve more.
We are proud that our community has this to offer.
One guest speaker at Tuesday’s AYP dinner, Lance Potvin, R&D Prototype Shop Manager at C.R. Bard, told the students gathered to set goals, have a plan, get started and be flexible to obstacles along the way. He spoke of the importance of planning, to be S.M.A.R.T, an acronym often used in business. It means: be Specific of their goals, have a Measurable achievement in mind, Assign the targetable goal to themselves, be Realistic in those goals and do it in a Timely manner.
For those roughly 200 Work Based Learning students at Tuesday’s AYP dinner, they were off to a very smart (and impressive) start.