Program gets students ‘ready to work’ when they leave school

By KATHY COPELAND / Community Columnist

Vincent/Harpersville

Shelby County Schools, The Shelby County Chamber and 58 Inc. want students to be “Ready to Work” when they leave high school, and they are working collaboratively to make it happen. Through a career technical education elective course that launched in August 2019, students spend the year-long course developing soft skills, problem-solving skills and other work readiness skills—some designed specifically to meet the needs of participating local employers.

On Thursday, Jan. 23, students had their first real interviews. Because students have been studying about various industries during their first semester and had already had the opportunity to meet with employers over the course of the semester, it was the perfect opportunity for them to show off what they have learned.

“I am beyond proud of my Ready to Work class!” said Dawn Howard, Vincent Middle High School’s Ready to Work/Work Force Essentials Coordinator. “This is an amazing experience for our students whether they leave school and go directly into the work force or they go to college. It was an amazing experience! Employers bragged on our students all day. They were impressed with our students’ professionalism, how well dressed they were, their mannerisms, how prepared they were in interviews, their soft skills and confidence. Vincent did a great job!”

“The active engagement of our businesses in providing tours, guest presentations in the classrooms and now ‘Interview Day’ has proven worthwhile for these students,” said Pari Barzegari, director of community and career development for The Shelby County Chamber.

The Onin Group, a Birmingham-based staffing organization and AIDT, a workforce development training agency are partners and provided the curriculum for the course being offered to students at Vincent, Montevallo High School and Shelby County High School.

Jan. 23 gave hundreds of students the opportunity to interview with three potential employers. Approximately 35 different companies participated. “We really appreciate the companies from Shelby County that participated and helped make today successful,” said Melody Whitten with 58 Inc.

During the remainder of the semester, students will have the opportunity for second interviews and some will receive potential job offers. “Other students in my class have plans to enter college after high school,” said Howard.

“We at Vincent Middle High School are thankful for this opportunity for our students. And we appreciate Kasani Bell and Tiffany Bishop of the Onin Group, and both The Shelby County Chamber and 58 Inc.,” said Dr. Michele Edwards, VMHS principal.

“We look forward to continuing to grow this program, expanding into additional high schools in the year ahead,” said Kirk Mancer, president and CEO of The Shelby County Chamber.

The next round of interviews is in March, and signing day is May 5.  “Our parents, school and community should be proud of these students. They represented Vincent well today,” said Howard.  “We really are Vincent Strong!”

Kathy Copeland is a community columnist covering the Vincent/Harpersville area.