Working Together Works!
Earlier this month the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced that Robertson County had been awarded a $25,000 grant to enhance and expand opportunities for "work-based learning" for our students. The grants will assist the development or expansion of programs that promote career awareness and student readiness in grades K-12. Work-Based Learning is an education strategy that provides students with experiences to learn and develop career and job skills. This announcement and the great things that will be offered to students in Robertson County as a result is a direct result of a collaborative effort between Robertson County Schools CTE and the Robertson County Chamber of Commerce.
For the last few years, the Chamber and the Robertson Education Initiative (REdI) have used funds provided by the investors of the Realizing Robertson's Future (RRF) economic development campaign to offer job shadowing opportunities for high school juniors and a career exploration fair for 8th graders. Both of these programs are designed to allow students to get a practical feel for the real world careers that they are considering. Yearly we have served more than 800 8th graders and 200 high school juniors through these efforts. (Stay tuned to see news from our Carol Sletto Job Shadowing Day coming up on February 2...we have 225 juniors participating!)
With the end of the RRF funding in June, 2017, we had been exploring ways to continue to implement these programs through the Chamber. When this grant program was announced, we contacted Director of Schools Chris Causey and CTE Director Mark Gregory to see if we could design a program that would allow us to devote staff time to keeping these programs going and also add some new programs targeting CTE students specifically.
One of the biggest challenges facing our Robertson County manufacturing employers is a shortage of workers skilled in industrial maintenance, welding, mechanical/industrial engineering and other trades that are vital to their growth and efficient operation. High school students are often unaware of the opportunities that exist in these areas right here at home. These jobs are well-paid, often do not require a college degree, and in many cases, training can be paid for by the employer.
To that end, we have worked with Mr. Gregory to design a new program we are calling the "Robertson County Manufacturing Experience". Patterned after our adult and youth leadership programs, we are inviting high school juniors in Robertson County CTE classes to apply for this opportunity to spend one day each month in a Robertson County manufacturing facility learning about all of the careers available and the training and skills required to qualify. They will get an up close look at these work places and hear from everyone from the management team to production supervisors and human resource managers. Then, during the summer, these students will have the opportunity to take a summer session which will provide career exploration and planning as well as work-based learning opportunities at participating workplaces.
Applications to participate in this program have been sent to all Robertson County high school counselors and students can apply through Wednesday, January 31. Selections will be based on fields of interest, good attendance record and good academic standing. This first year will include 4 school day sessions; next year the program will expand eight sessions. For more information, email Mark.Gregory@rcstn.net or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope this is just the first of many collaborative efforts between our schools and the Chamber as we seek to prepare the next generation of skilled and qualified employees for Robertson County's growing economy. There are great careers to be had here in Robertson County and we want to help fill them!