Students take ‘work-ready’ to the state level

Published 7:39 pm Friday, October 13, 2017

Four Washington High School students recently made the trek to Raleigh for a North Carolina Business Committee for Education meeting at PNC Arena to gain some real-world experience.

While in Raleigh, the students were able to shadow employees from the CanesVision broadcast and production team while filming the NCBCE meeting, according to Damon Walcott, a visual art and video production teacher at Washington High. The students also met Gov. Roy Cooper, who spoke at the event.

This month’s trip to Raleigh is part of the Visual/Performing Arts and Industrial Design Academy launched at Washington High last year. The launch of this “academy” and other STEM-related courses was made possible through the Governor’s Innovation Grant, according to Wendy Petteway, career and technical education director for Beaufort County Schools.

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. Other grant-funded programs in Beaufort County include “Technology and Design” and “Digital Art” at P.S. Jones Middle School, which acted as a springboard for the Washington programs, as well as public safety courses at Southside High and automotive classes at Northside High.

“The grant itself was obtained in the spring of 2014 when (a request for bids) was put out for innovative programs that would promote STEM activities and workforce activities for students across the state,” Petteway explained. “It was used to initiate that students from any high school could attend the ‘academy’ of their choice by choosing to apply to any of the programs that fit their career interest.”

Petteway said the grant was secured for five years, and BCS receives $160,000 in funding every year.

Most recently, some of the grant money went toward updated computers and software for Washington’s art classes, as well as a computer numeric control machine for carpentry students, Petteway said.

“The hope is to combine arts with industrial design by having teachers collaborate within their curricula to combine art and industrial design,” she said. “The video class was able to produce exponentially better products by having access to industry-level software and equipment.”

This type of real-world experience is an essential part of the county’s STEM-related, work-ready programs. The recent trip to Raleigh was a way to provide just that.

“The biggest benefit was experiencing a real-life application of video production. I’ve never been ‘behind the scenes’ of a professional set like CanesVision,” student Colston Lyons said. “This particularly interested me because I (want) to pursue digital arts as a career.”

Petteway said learning these career skills is vital for students, and employers also look for people who can work as a team and solve problems.

“Involvement by our business community in Beaufort County and across the state helps educational entities focus efforts to produce a workforce that can perform the necessary tasks required to keep both the county and the state competitive,” Petteway said. “As we teach students ‘hard skills,’ we also need to teach them skills such as teamwork, showing up on time and the ability to learn quickly as the workplace changes at lightning speed.”