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State-recognized ‘soft skills’ certification helps students in workplace

POSTED: October 20, 2013 10:56 p.m.

Hundreds of Hall County high school juniors and seniors already have a jump-start on their future careers.

There are 563 students in the school system’s work-based learning program, which is composed of several different components.

Along with an internship, “they will do a job shadow, they will do community service (and) a career research project, also,” said Rhonda Samples, career technical coordinator for the county system.

Career-based learning is not really a new concept to school systems. But now seniors have the ability to go above and beyond in applying the soft skills they learn through the process, by earning a GeorgiaBEST certification through the state Department of Labor.

The GeorgiaBEST program for Business Ethics Student Training focuses on 10 standards, such as punctuality, communication skills and time management, expected in the workplace.

“Every month, (students) have specific assignments that address these soft skills areas that the Department of Labor has identified through their research with employers,” Samples said. “(For example,) in September the activities might address social media ethics.”

“And then, the fact that they’re doing at least 150 hours in an internship ... all of these soft skills are addressed out there on the job,” she added.

All work-based learning students are exposed to these soft skills, with certification reserved for seniors who meet all requirements.

The school system is expanding the program to include younger students.

“We are piloting the GeorgiaBEST middle school program in several of our ... career tech courses,” Samples said. “I would say that the middle school level is ... starting to explore all of these soft skills areas, where (in) the high school program you’re going more in depth.”

In 2013, 120 seniors in Hall earned the GeorgiaBEST certification.

“We had a 56 percent rate of our seniors to earn their certification,” Samples said.

“Our expectations for earning the GeorgiaBEST certificate are set higher than the Georgia Department of Labor’s regular rubric,” she added. “Systems are allowed to add additional expectations.”

Last year, Chestatee High graduate and current Brenau University student KayLynn Samples was named GeorgiaBEST Student of the Year for the state.

“GeorgiaBEST has helped prepare me to face tomorrow with a confident and committed attitude that will propel me to excellence,” KayLynn Samples said previously. “GeorgiaBEST is a soft skills program which teaches personal attributes that enhance an individual’s interactions, job performance and career prospects for the future upon completion.”

Students receive a certificate and are able to include the information on their resumés for employers to see.

“(The certification) is new, so we are finding that we (have to) help educate our employers in the community,” Rhonda Samples said. “Every employer that our work-based learning coordinators talk to loves it.”

Micayla Thomas, a senior at North Hall High, interns at Northeast Georgia Medical Center through the work-based program. She plans to be a nurse once she completes college.

She hopes to earn the GeorgiaBEST certification at the end of the year.

“It will benefit me,” Thomas said. “It will let all my potential employers know that I was a GeorgiaBEST, and that I did do the program.

“It’s just kind of a little eye-opener to reality and to the real world,” she added.


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