By Debbie Burt Myers
A newly implemented program at Neshoba Central High School is bringing area business and industry leaders together with students in a relaxed learning atmosphere.
Workforce Wednesday allows leaders to share a broad variety of career opportunities with students once a month during lunch periods.
“We kicked off our new program with Winston Plywood of Louisville,” Dana McLain, Neshoba Central Work-based Learning Program Coordinator, said.
They shared various careers with students from engineering to the actual process of how plywood and other wood products are manufactured at their facility.
Neshoba Central junior Johnny Nowell received a business card with the names of three representatives from Winston Plywood.
He placed it in his wallet for safekeeping after finding the presentation interesting and informative.
Nowell, who works part-time at David Wayne’s Small Engine Repair, plans a career as a diesel mechanic.
“I talked to the representatives one-on-one,” he said. “I was interested in the work options they offer.”
Nowell, who holds 10 entry-level automotive certifications, plans to attend East Central Community College after graduation.
Neshoba students Ayden Fortune and Matthew Wilkinson also found Workforce Wednesday informative.
Fortune, who plans a career as a welder, noted that Winston Plywood provides high-paying jobs.
“It would be a good job out of high school for someone not going to college,” he said. “They even offer part-time jobs with good pay on weekends.”
Fortune said he would be interested in any kind of hands-on job.
He plans to attend Northwest Community College and enroll in its diesel mechanics program.
Wilkinson stopped by the Winston Plywood presentation with his friends. He enjoyed the experience.
The sophomore plans to obtain a job in Texas after graduation. He aspires to work on power lines or climb towers, similar to what his father does.
“They pay a lot for those jobs,” he said.
McLain was proud that a number of students stopped by for the Workforce Wednesday event.
“We had a good show of participation,” she said. “It wasn’t a mandatory thing. It was optional for our students.”
Neshoba Central High School Principal Jason Gentry said the lunch period was the ideal time to offer the new program.
The school runs four different lunch periods, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The business and industry presenters set up outside the cafeteria and talk with students as they shift to and from lunch.
“Winston Plywood set up in our conference room,” Gentry said. “They had conversations with students as they ran a PowerPoint video. I thought it was a great flow.”
Gentry said it was a relaxed atmosphere similar to a job fair.
The goal is to bring in a variety of career paths for students to explore.
“Our responsibility is to teach students that they have options,” McLain said. “They learn just as much outside the classroom as they do inside when they are visiting with and speaking to experts.”
Oftentimes, students are “driven about a particular career but when they start researching and talking to experts in that field, they realize the field is not for them. We want to expose them to a variety.”
East Central Career Tech instructors and counselors will meet with students during Workforce Wednesday in October.
November will see McLain Plumbing at the event while December will bring in the Philadelphia Fire Department.
Neshoba General Hospital, along with several other entities, is scheduled for the spring.
“We are trying to bring career awareness and let students know what is offered in our very own backyard,” McLain said. “We want to appeal to various careers, not just on a particular career path but different ones they are interested in.”
Gentry reiterated that the number one goal was to make the school’s work-based learning program more efficient and more effective.
“We want to teach our students how to look for a job and how to effectively reach out to potential employees with good soft skills like communication,” he said.
Gentry said the two-hour block for the program does not take students out of the classroom.