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West Hall students practice job interview soft skills
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West Hall students wait in line for their turn to interview Friday morning during a SkillsUSA mock job interview event at the school.

High school students don’t usually wear dresses and heels or shirts and ties to school.

Nearly 200 did so Friday at West Hall High School for mock job interviews through SkillsUSA. Participating students prepared applications and resumes for interviews with human resource individuals from the community.

“SkillsUSA prepares our students for the world of work,” said Scott Holtzclaw, construction teacher and SkillsUSA sponsor. “We do everything in our power to make sure they have all the tools necessary, not only the skills we teach.”

Holtzclaw invited 10 of the school’s partners in education and local businesses to interview students Friday.

Prior to the mock interviews, the students were taught the proper dress code, posture and interview techniques.

“Everything went well,” said Jonathan Corona, senior at West Hall and secretary of the SkillsUSA chapter. “We’re doing it the proper way, handshaking, eye contact, saying the right things.”

Seniors Ashleigh Strickland and Jocelyne Carrillo said they believe the interviews are good preparation for the future.

“It’s the first time we’ve done something like this in this type of setting,” Carrillo said. “We’ve had to do it for competition, but this is different.”

In January, the chapter will compete at North Georgia Technical College in a skills-based competition, according to Holtzclaw. The mock interviews Friday were an exercise of the soft skills young people need to be successful, but SkillsUSA helps harness hard skills as well, he said.

“It’s not only how to drive a nail or solve a problem, but also how to interview, how to write a resume, how to be successful,” Holtzclaw said.

West Hall High has the second largest SkillsUSA chapter in Georgia, with just over 200 members. They also participate in community service projects during the year. Recently, they built a playhouse for Habitat for Humanity, and in December they will bring Christmas gifts to Peachtree Plantation.

“We’re really thankful that we have people in our community that are willing to support us as an organization,” he said. “And we try to give the students an awareness of the community and the need to give back.”

Holtzclaw said it is important to give young people a head start on their futures, and honing career skills is a crucial way of doing so.

“There are days, working at a high school, that aren’t rewarding,” Holtzclaw said. “But days like today, seeing them encouraged, sitting up straight or leaning in slightly, eager — this is awesome.”

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