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Chestatee teachers aspire to get students life-ready
Educators prepare for school with work-based learning
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Chestatee High teachers spent the week learning about possible future careers their students could have.

A variety of job opportunities await students coming out of high school.

Some high school students will go on to college or other degree programs, while others will enter the workforce immediately.

As the Hall County School District returns to class Friday, the approximately 80 teachers at Chestatee High School have spent the week learning about the careers awaiting their students.

“We talk all the time about getting our students ready for what’s next,” said Suzanne Jarrard, principal at Chestatee High. “‘Life-ready,’ we call it. Are these students going to work immediately, are they going to a two-year school, or are they going to a four-year school? We’re having these discussions amongst ourselves.”

Jarrard and the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce hosted several industry leaders at the high school this week, including Loren Funk, chief operating officer at Longstreet Clinic; Michael Otterbach, vice president of manufacturing at Marel Stork; Chad Black, deputy fire chief for Hall County; and Sandra Simon-Grindy, director of human resources for Lanier Islands resort.

Grindy said Lanier Islands is rare in that it regularly hires high-school-age employees.

“I have a luxury I would say that the population I’m looking to hire, generally speaking, has the least amount of skills,” she said. “Because we can train most of the associates that come to work at Lanier Islands.”

That said, Grindy said there are “intangible skills” young people need to work in hospitality and are often lacking, such as making eye contact, speaking clearly and being personable.

Black said Hall County Fire Services also has additional training for its firefighters, and it requires employees to have critical thinking skills and basic math, reading and writing skills.

“There’s a lot of reporting writing, and that sometimes ends up in the courtroom,” Black said. “So we want that report to be accurate and detailed.”

At Marel Stork, a poultry machinery company, Otterbach said commitment, honesty and attitude are crucial aspects of a good employee.

“You cannot train attitude,” he said. “You can train skills, but if they have the wrong attitude for work, for what they want to do or what they do, you can’t train that.”

Longstreet Clinic hires fewer students straight out of high school, but Funk said the company has “a myriad of different roles,” including a number of positions that don’t require an advanced education.

“Professionalism, being able to carry on an articulate conversation with someone without lots of ‘likes,’” Funk said. “Because most of our job is patient-upfront, and usually at a critical time in the patient’s life.”

The panelists also encouraged teachers to give students an opportunity to experiment and find their passion.

Perry Barnett, with the chamber’s Workforce Development Task Force, said teachers have an ability to help their students forge their own futures.

“You all hold a crystal ball in your hands,” he said.

Jarrard said teachers prepare students “for the real world,” outside the classroom.

“I’ve never worked in manufacturing, as a firefighter or paramedic,” she said. “I’ve never worked in hospitality or health care, but we are preparing students for those fields and more.”

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