School System and Community Partnership Gives Teachers a LIFT

LaGrange, Ga., June 14, 2017 – A few days ago, 24 Troup County School System (TCSS) teachers switched places and became the students as they participated in the LaGrange Industrial Fellowship for Teachers (LIFT) program.

This community partnership between TCSS, Development Authority of LaGrange, and LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce provided a one week summer externship experience for local teachers to visit manufacturing companies throughout the county. Businesses that participated were:

• Duracell

• Interface

• Kia

• Kimberly-Clark

• Milliken & Company

• Powertech America Over the next five years, Troup County’s job forecast shows nearly 6,000 new jobs will be created in manufacturing and distribution. There is also a strong need to educate high school students about viable careers available in their own backyard. The LIFT partnership’s is an opportunity to combine the two needs. Upon creation, the goal of the program is to help:

• Reduce the gap in the skilled workforce pipeline.

• Grow student interest in manufacturing careers.

• Broaden educator’s subject expertise and teaching strategies.

• Align the perception of what Advanced Manufacturing looks like today.

• Remove the misconception that Advanced Manufacturing is an unhealthy work environment.

• Provide opportunities for business partners to understand the drivers behind the current curriculum and help align what is taught in the classroom.

Over the week-long externship, teachers from around the district toured the manufacturing plants and interviewed numerous employees about their careers as they work to bring the knowledge of Advanced Manufacturing into the classroom. In addition, employees at the participating businesses learned about lesson planning, classroom settings, rigor and relevance professional deve lopment, and curriculum.

As a Plant Manager at Duracell, Patrick Bowers knows this summer externship opportunity will help build a pipeline for employees. He said, “It is critical for the plants future as our current workforce works toward retirement. We are going to need to replace those people with qualified individuals that are trained to run our equipment. I am excited that our educators can see what we do so they can take it back to the classroom and get the kids excited about the rewarding careers they can have in manufacturing” -Continued In highlighting the training needs of Duracell employees, Bowers stated, “We have a large workforce that are high school graduates and technical college graduates. You have to pursue at least a high school degree. Our careers range from finance and accounting to mechanical engineering and operations of high tech equipment.”

Both Melissa McDonald, a Callaway High School Literature teacher, and Lisa O’Neal, a 7th grade Science teacher at Gardner Newman Middle School, will be able to bring relevant learning into their classrooms from their time at Duracell.

McDonald said, “As we implement more rigorous and relevant learning, it is important for my literature students to connect everyday living with what they learn. This externship gives me an outlook of the workforce expectations after my student’s graduate high school or even college. I know what employers are looking for my students to have mastered by the time they exit high school. Now, I will be able to help them connect those dots.”

“I teach children that may struggle with what they want to do with their lives or are still searching their interests because they are middle school students. Through this externship, I hope to bridge the gap of helping my students find their real interests; something they can do for a living right here in the community,” stated O’Neal.

O’Neal continued, “The biggest thing I have learned is what an engineer is and what they do. I saw exactly what it looks like. Most of my students are good at math and they love math. Now, I can show them how to possibly turn their love of math into a career. I can help them understand the career is about trial and error, problem solving, and not about sitting behind a desk. I see things here (at Duracell) that my students would love to do and I can now make that connection for them.”

Over at Kimberly Clark, teachers Latacha Hardnett, Katrina Gardner and Aiden Blackwell were interviewing Brandon Hendley and Bill Gordon who are both Maintenance employees with the global brand.

Both Hendley and Gordon stressed the importance of soft skills and basic math skills for anyone to be successful at their jobs and in everyday life. They both highlighted those coming into the workforce must be self-starters, computer savvy, know how to interact with people, possess a good work ethic, and be open to new ideas. In their position, Gordon said, “you have to know how to use a basic ruler. You have to know how to do that without a calculator.”

Hardnett, a Gardner Newman Middle School 8th grade teacher, shared her memory of seeing a family member come home from a plant, “They were dirty and dusty. From my days as a young child, that is the memory I have kept of manufacturing. Now that I have seen the new environment of manufacturing facilities, it has removed some of my own misconceptions. As I teach, I will be able to share that with my students.”

To learn more about Troup County School System, visit troup.org and the Troup County School Sys-Four tem Facebook page.