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Chamber: Companies, students need each other
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Felipe Lopez works at American Yazaki Corporation in Gainesville through a Work-Based Learning program.

Students who work at local manufacturing businesses can be valuable to the employees, two executives said Tuesday.

Terry Merck, vice president and plant manager for American Yazaki Corp., and Phil Sutton, chief administrative officer for Kubota Manufacturing of America, touted the Work-Based Learning program of local schools, and urged other companies to consider participating.

The two spoke at a lunch about workforce development. The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce sponsored the lunch with both local school systems and Lanier Technical College.

It was the second annual luncheon the chamber has held about workforce development.

Sutton termed the program a “springboard” for students. Merck said two students who work for Merck have been “a tremendous help to us.”

Jim Huddleston, vice president for operations at Mincey Marble Manufacturing, said the company may be interested in participating in the program. He said students might work out well in quality control or testing new products for the firm.

Sutton told the example of one girl who “was all about ‘I can’t’” but who is now in college. He termed Work-Based Learning an “I can” program.

Merck explained that one boy “found out real fast that the little things mean a lot,” such as cleaning work space when a job is completed.

Raul Guerrero, who works at Baldor Electric, urged companies to “give students a shot.” He explained he found “what I want to do with my life” when he joined the company — after first participating in Work-Based Learning to explore being a mechanic.

Khyri Ali, a Gainesville High School student, said he also is on his second job — the first was with a real estate company.

Ali works for Tribe Transport and said he plans to be an entrepreneur. He is taking the business pathway at Gainesville, he said.

Misty Freeman, director of the college and career program for Gainesville, and Will Schofield, superintendent for Hall County, emphasized the value of the businesses’ participation.

“What they can get from you in the workplace we’ll never be able to match,” Freeman said.

Students, Schofield said, “need to know how to do something.”

Ray Perren, president of Lanier Technical College, said a ninth-grader could earn an associate degree while in high school — and it would not cost him or her anything. When students take college courses in high school, the cost is paid with HOPE money through the state’s When Ready Move On program, said Rhonda Samples, Hall County’s career, technical and agricultural education director.

About 60 people attended the 2015 meeting, and more than 100 signed up for the Tuesday meeting, according to Perry Barnett, the chair of the chamber’s workforce development task force.

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