With the new school year underway, Walton Works is gearing up for its second year of connecting local students to local companies.
Walton Works is an arm of the Development Authority of Walton County focused on employability and uniting the sometimes separated worlds of high schools, technical schools and industry.
Last year was the first full year the program has been in operation. The curriculum focused on advising students on soft skills, like being on time and solving problems, which industries say are the biggest issues with the local workforce.
There was also a massive college and career fair and several other opportunities for students to connect with employers.
Things will change in the program’s second year, according to Economic Development Coordinator Dessa Morris, who directs Walton Works.
“We realized we needed to meet more students,” she said.
The soft skills training, for instance, was only with students in career, technical and agricultural education courses.
This year, students in Walnut Grove High School’s audio/video technology and film classes will be producing 10 videos about things like networking, professionalism, drug policies, critical thinking and other topics. All of them will be shown at all four public high schools, along with an activity and discussion guide.
Every student will also complete a YouScience assessment, which will help student’s understand how his or her personality and skills might apply to a career down the road.
Then Walton Works can use that data to better connect students to employers.
“We had 66 kids say they were interested in industrial maintenance last year,” Morris said.
“That’s the hardest job for our employers to fill. With the YouScience assessment, we can help students better understand what that entails, if they’re suited for it, and find jobs doing that.”
But the biggest change will be taking kids to employers, rather than bringing employers to kids, like with the Career Expo last year.
In February of next year, Walton Works will partner with Student Success Alliance and the Walton County Chamber of Commerce to take every junior and senior on a tour of a local employer, like automotive manufacturer Hitachi, pharmaceutical giant Takeda or the Facebook data center.
The idea, Morris said, is to show students what these companies really do.
“Kids have incorrect ideas about what high-tech manufacturing looks like,” Morris said. “It’s not the dark and smoky factories of the past. … Students pass by these big buildings every day and have no idea what goes on inside them.”
It’s a massive undertaking, but Morris hopes it will be a win for students and for employers, especially since manufacturing is Walton County’s fastest growing job sector.
“We’ve got to connect kids to these growing industries,” Morris said.
In Year Two, Walton Works is in an excellent place to do it.
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