Thirty-nine students at Johnson High School are working on soft skills and workforce development with Lisa Jones, a new teacher at the school, as part of Jobs for Georgia Graduates, a new program in Hall County.
A three-year pilot program was introduced Thursday with the state Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler and representatives from the University of North Georgia, AT&T, the school district and Jobs for America’s Graduates.
Jobs for Georgia Graduates is offered at 20 high schools in the state. It is part of a 36-year-old nonprofit, Jobs for America’s Graduates, that provides assistance for at-risk students.
Johnson High School was selected for the program because of the number of students living in poverty and the number of English language learners. Those are “indicators we know are correlated to lower graduation and post-secondary attendance,” Will Schofield, Hall County superintendent, said in an email.
Jones, who came to Hall County from Baltimore, Md., said she worked for a nonprofit in Baltimore that helped at-risk youth.
Jones has a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s in adult education from Bellevue University.
She said among her duties will be recruitment of students for future years. She said she will seek students “who need that extra push” and who might be “unaware of what options they may have available.”
The emphasis is on soft skills — those traits needed to get and hold a job.
Several speakers emphasized showing up on time and being part of a team. Traits that are not helpful, Schofield said, include “not pulling their pants up and giving their boss the finger.”
Butler and Schofield said business representatives always say the biggest reason people are fired, or not hired, is a lack of “soft skills.”
Butler told the students “we need you.” He said Georgia businesses “have jobs waiting for you.” More than 100,000 jobs are available in the state now, he said.
Jobs for Georgia Graduates provides assistance on how to interview, filling out college and financial aid applications, adult mentoring, job placement services and follow-up services for a year.
Butler said the program has a higher graduation rate — 96.6 percent last year — than the state average of 78.8 percent.
He added his goal is to have the program “in every single high school across the state.”
AT&T has donated $30,000 to the program. The University of North Georgia has committed $60,000, and Hall County Schools will contribute $50,000.The state Department of Labor will provide $453,000 for the three-year program.
Richard Oates, vice president for UNG’s Gainesville campus, said Jobs for Georgia Graduates “meshes into the mission of the university.”
He noted UNG’s Regional Education and Economic Development task force has a mission similar to Jobs for Georgia graduates. The REED task force includes more than 100 business, education, government and community leaders from the region.
“In many ways, UNG’s REED initiative served as the catalyst for our participation in the JGG program,” Oates said in a Department of Labor press release.
The partnership for the program includes Dawson and Stephens county high schools along with Johnson. Students from Dawson and Stephens extolled the virtues of the program Thursday.