Marshall County Economic Development Council hosts “Industry for Educators” event
by Johnita Romine
Guntersville industries recently opened their doors to educators from the city schools for the Marshall County Economic Development Council’s (MCEDC) Industry for Educators program. This collaborative event allowed teachers, counselors, and administrators to learn about workforce development activities that are taking place in their county and how they, as educators, fit into the workforce puzzle.
The day started with a panel that included: Dr. Greg Randall, Executive Project Director of Workforce Enhancement at Snead State Community College; Roseanne Mabrey, Career Technical Education Director for Guntersville City Schools; Matt Arnold, President of MCEDC; and Zach Lee, Regional External Affairs Liaison for the Alabama Community College System. The panel discussed training opportunities for students that are designed to help them prepare for the workforce.
After the panel discussion, educators traveled to Highline Warren for an industry tour and heard from Bert Briggs and Michael Beith about workforce needs for their company in producing automotive chemicals and products. The educators continued to Dixie Grinders where Matt Shellnow, Bill Shellnow, and Amanda Shellnow shared their experiences in running a family-owned business which provides industrial grinders for the meat processing industry. The educators saw how the employees used traditional equipment along with modern manufacturing methods to make their products.
Following the tours, educators returned to Guntersville Middle School for lunch where they heard from Jennifer Palmer of the Marshall County Legislative Office, and Jessica Webb of ProgressRail regarding industry outreach activities and workforce development programs available to students. A business and industry panel discussed workforce challenges, the skills needed for today’s workforce, and the importance of exposing students to careers. Malanta Knowles, Vice-President of Marketing & Design at Paragon Wall Decor, mentioned that some of the challenges they are seeing have to do with punctuality and attendance, the lack of critical thinking skills, and the use of cell phones in the workplace. Paragon has addressed these challenges by implementing a point system for employees who are late or absent, providing games that promote critical thinking skills during breaks, and installing WiFi which provides an opportunity for the employees to use their cell phones during break times instead of on the manufacturing floor.
Randy Ferguson, Plant Manager for Hyco Alabama said, “There are two things that would help us with regard to students being prepared for the workforce. They need to be held accountable and to be responsible for their actions.” Educators and panelists agreed on the importance. Johnita Romine, Education & Training Programs Manager for North AlabamaWorks, stated, “These are two things that start with parents, and they need to understand that when a student is held accountable for his or her actions and they assume some responsibility for the consequences, they will be better prepared for the workforce. There are just some lines that can’t be crossed without consequences.”
She went on to encourage the teachers to look at careers within their class subject matter and to share those with students, mentioning the Simulated Workplace model. She encouraged educators to consider implementing this program in their own classroom or school. Simulated Workplace has been around for a few years in career and technical education programs, but some schools and teachers are providing this experience for students beyond CTE. The goal of the program is to teach and reinforce behaviors that are necessary for workplace success. The panel thanked the educators for their dedication and expressed their gratitude as they help to prepare the future workforce.
Laura Braswell, who spearheads the Workforce Development initiatives at MCEDC, coordinated the Industry for Educators program. She believes that it is important for students to be exposed to the community around them and is a strong advocate for bringing education and business and industry together. “It is such a joy to see a student or educator get excited about the products that are being made right here in Marshall County. I look forward to providing more opportunities like this in the future.”
If you would like more information on the Industry for Educators or other workforce development initiatives that are being offered by the MCEDC, please contact Laura at [email protected].