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Hall County educators get field experience
West Hall High School marketing teacher Deborah Hutchison takes part in a meeting with officials with the Electronic Sales Company in Gainesville. In the meeting with her, from left, are Jackie Cooley, Dan Richardson and Counte Cooley, of Electronic Sales; and Al Trembley, owner of WSI Digital Rainmakers.

Two Hall County educators said they have new experiences they can share with their students considering different careers as a result of recent shadowing opportunities with area businesses.

Christy Carter, Work-Based Learning coordinator at Flowery Branch High School, and Deborah Hutchison, who teaches marketing classes at West Hall High, participated in 20-hour externships last month funded through the state’s Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Resource Network.

Carter worked at PPG Architectural Finishes in Oakwood, while Hutchison was an extern at WSI Digital Rainmakers.

“I wish that I could do it for every placement that I have because you learn so much about the company, about the automation system, about the organizational chart, the chain of command, things like that,” Carter said about her three days at PPG. “I can take that back to my students and say, ‘This is what you’re looking at when you think about manufacturing; it’s not just an assembly line.’”

Carter said she shadowed every department, conducted interviews with 16 employees and even loaded paint can lids onto the assembly line. As a result of her time at PPG, she developed lessons on teamwork and communication that she will teach to her students this fall. She said those two soft skills were areas she believes her students can learn from PPG.

“If they’re not communicating and they’re not working together as a team collaboratively, then it’s not going to work,” Carter said. “(The PPG employees) respect the fact that they have to be transparent in order to make this work. I think it’s amazing.”

Carter said her school has begun a partnership with PPG. One of her students was an intern there last year, and another is scheduled to work there four hours a day as a intern in the fall.

“What I wanted to do to is strengthen that partnership and I guess to strengthen my knowledge of what our interns do, and see what the entry-level positions are like, what the environment is and what their needs are as a company,” she said. “That’s my job to prepare these students to go into the workforce.”

Among the things that surprised her was the fact that the company was not fully automated, something that could be a future niche some of her students could provide down the line.

“I think our kids are going to be those consultants or those software gurus that come in and just  say, ‘OK, this is what you need; this is the information you need; let’s do this,’” she said. “It was surprising to me that it wasn’t completely automated, but they are still very efficient running the way that they always have.”

For Hutchison, her externship was a return to the business field where she had worked in human resources and nursing staffing before becoming a teacher at West Hall. She said she left business for teaching in 2010.

“I did come from the corporate sector before I started teaching, and things have just evolved so much,” she said. “It was just kind of neat to get a fresh perspective on how things have changed since I was in the business world.”

“Back in 2010, I would say the digital world was still on the toddler side,” she added. “We had internet at that point for some time, but the strategies, they were just coming out.”

Al Trembley, owner of WSI Digital Rainmakers, was on Hutchison’s advisory board. When the possibility for the externship came up, he was her first choice to shadow.

“I thought this would be a great opportunity to build a relationship with him and to see what he does,” she said. “I went to meetings with him. I met with some of his clients. I helped him analyze a few things that he’s working on, and I helped him with some contracts he has with other clients. I enjoyed interacting with other clients. It helped me to understand what a company is doing to make themselves successful.”

Trembley said the externship was helpful to him as well.

“I thought it was a great benefit; it was interesting to find out the questions that she has and the challenges of getting kids prepared to work in the workplace,” he said. “I learned a lot. I think Deborah was pretty surprised about the complexities of what digital marketing is all about.”

Hutchison said the experience will give her more about the digital marketing profession to bring to her students.

“I like to bring real-life experiences into my classroom; it’s more than just textbooks in my classroom,” she said. “I appreciate spending time with someone who is actually working in the industry. I have so many new comparisons. It’s not just old information. It is an actual person that gave me their feedback. It brings a lot of value to the classroom.”