Around two dozen businesses showed up for BVHS’ work-based learning informational meeting on Thursday, March 6. The high school rolled out the new program this year and will continue adjusting the program for next year.
“We have so many amazing opportunities and industries in Chaffee County for our students to explore potential careers,” said Liz Barnaby, BVHS principal. “Our Work-Based Learning program allows students to connect with the community in the school setting to learn more about the various careers in our county, as well as being able to partner students with an internship.”
Jessica Bright, Avery-Parsons Elementary School assistant principal, said the program helps students make connections between their school subjects and possible career paths.
The first level of involvement includes business leaders coming to the schools to invite students to ask questions about their field, learn about different opportunities and industries in the area and make connections between their school material and potential careers.
“This is learning about work,” she said. “Learning about work is bringing you guys in. It’s talking to our kids. It’s sitting with the kid saying, ‘hey, I really liked math. How do I use that?’ Or, ‘I really like English. How can I use that to do journalism, to do broadcasts, to do web design to write stories for all sorts of different things?’ So it’s really making that connection.”
The next level up would be workplace learning, which involves students partnering with businesses in the community for clinical experiences, internships and industry-sponsored projects.
“We’re working with the kids, teaching them those soft skills like how to have a good handshake,” Bright said. “And then we partner with you guys. … You guys are setting goals with our students. What do you want the student to learn? What does the student want to learn? It may mesh well, it may not it might not be a good fit, and that’s where we work together when we try to pair our students with you guys.
“That learning piece is kind of a partnership between the school and you as a company,” she said. “It’s not just about them working and getting job experience. It’s about the learning about the career, and that’s the biggest difference between a job and a true internship. We want them to learn about the career and the path that it can open up.”
Next would come what Bright calls “learning at work,” when businesses work with students and “mold them into the beautiful future employees (they) want them to be.” This step helps prepare students for their post-high school path. Though Bright says BV isn’t quite at that level yet, that’s where they’d like to see the program go.
“They’re either training them and then certifications they may need to be certified in your workplace, whatever that may be. … They can be a full-on apprentice where they’re working side-by-side, getting trained exactly how you want them to be and employee development.”
Beth Volpe of the Buena Vista Public Library shared that their intern, Apen Stearns, was able to transfer her high-level knowledge of science and math and apply them to building Take-and-Make kits at the library, which built her communication skills. She was also able to take on a welding internship in town.
“I love the fact that she actually took an opportunity in school to learn what I would call soft skills, as well,” says Adam Fuller, BVHS business leadership teacher. “She comes in with a high technical, high math-achieving high science-achieving background and we put her in something where she’s got to take the instructions and … break it down for someone who can do it at home.”
Barnaby and BV schools superintendent Lisa Yates encouraged businesses to get involved in any way that would fit their abilities and needs, whether they wanted to do a few in-class presentations or take on an intern for multiple years.
“It’s been a progression of us learning what fits our community,” Yates said. “We wanted to bring everyone here to see where they fit on this spectrum of how we want our kids to be involved in the community.”
The school will have a Career Fair on March 15 for business leaders that are interested in having an intern, as well as a school-wide Business Career Fair in April or May, for all businesses looking to partner with any of the students, even for summer jobs.
Interested businesses in learning more about the program can contact Barnaby at email@example.com or by contacting the high school.
“We are always willing to meet businesses interested in partnering with us,” she said. “We do not have a deadline.”
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