Area educators who spent the week working in local industries sat down on Friday for a round-table discussion on what they learned and what advice they would relay to students approaching workforce age.
The discussion was the end piece to the Business Education for Teachers program, which takes educators out of the classroom and tasks them with working for an industrial employer for one week each summer. The program is a joint venture between Workforce Solutions Texoma, the Denison Development Alliance and the Sherman Economic Development Corp., and focuses on occupations which rely on science, technology, engineering and math skills. Educators from Grayson, Fannin and Cooke counties are able to participate in the annual program and those working in Sherman spent the last week exploring the various departments of Eaton B-Line, Emerson Process Management and Tyson Foods.
“They get a very good perspective on what opportunities and roles are available for their students,” SEDCO Vice President of Business Retention and Expansion Stacey Jones said of the participating educators. “And the subject matter that they teach, they’re actually able to see it in the real world.”
DDA Vice President of Operations Loretta Rhoden said that new workplace perspective is often a little jarring for educators in their first days, but by the end of the program, they’re sad to leave their new posts.
“For a lot of the teachers, it really takes them out of their usual environment,” Rhoden said. “So a lot of them, at the beginning of the week, are very apprehensive about going. But then, once they come back, we’ve always heard that everybody really likes it.”
Sherman High School counselor Hope Lewis said she felt that way when she started her week with Tyson, but said the opportunity to sit with other new employees on orientation day showed her that students with disadvantages shouldn’t consider themselves out of luck when it comes to landing an industrial job.
“I saw people there with physical limitations, but the biggest thing was the number of individuals there who didn’t even speak English,” Lewis said. “They had interpreters and in the orientation room where they were watching a video, anybody who didn’t speak English had on a headset and they had an interpreter who was reading it to them in their language. That was amazing to me.”
Lewis and her fellow program participants listed professional and personal communication, math and computer skills as essential to the roles they took on and said they would be sure to relay the necessity of those abilities to their students. SHS counselor Michelle Burton said her time with Eaton showed her that the company valued and rewarded innovative ideas and projects pitched by employees of all levels. As a result, she said she would encourage her students to embrace creativity and problem-solving skills when considering or entering the industrial field.
“A lot of times when you’re at the lower level, you don’t really feel like you are valued or that you have anything to contribute or that your thoughts or ideas are welcome, but that was not the case here,” Burton said of her experience. “They value them as much as if they came from the boss.”
Fellow Sherman High teacher Stephen Murray spent his time in the program working with Emerson and said the company’s recent expansion of its production floor and use of new technologies were indicative of the ever-evolving nature of industrial jobs. And with his high school students close to entering the workforce, Murray said he would emphasize the importance of flexibility before they left his classroom for the workplace.
“They’re in constant change,” Murray said of the industrial employers. “That’s one of the things we’ve got to be able to impress upon the students. They’ve got to be very adaptable to change.”