Eighth graders from across the Upper Savannah Region got a glimpse of what is possible for their futures at the Lakelands Career Showcase at Piedmont Technical College.
Approximately 1,600 eighth graders from Brewer, Saluda, JET, Meriweather, Edgewood, Calhoun Falls, Wright, Dixie, Northside, Ware Shoals and Westview middle schools, as well as Greenwood Christian and Cambridge Academy attended the event in Greenwood on Sept. 15.
The event was organized by Western Piedmont Education Consortium Regional Career Specialist Laura Padgett, in partnership with Piedmont Tech, SC Works/Upper Savannah COG, Lakelands Home Builders Association and Vision Greenwood.
USCOG Deputy Workforce Development Director Erin Nodine assisted with the Showcase.
“Laura (Padgett) was very well-organized and we had regular meetings with all partners to keep in touch about how planning was going. This really was a team effort to make an event of this size happen,” Nodine said.
Nodine said the eighth grade is an opportune to begin reaching out to the future workforce.
“Going into the ninth grade, students have to work on what is called an IGP (Individual Graduation Plan),” she said. “During their eighth-grade year, the students take assessments and are exposed to things that could help them determine their track for high school and beyond.
“This event was an awesome opportunity for students to put their hands on something and really understand the career choices available. The assessments the students take during their eighth-grade year show them what career cluster they might best ‘match’ for out of the many options.”
These careers include Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources, Architecture and Construction, Arts, A/V Technology & Communications, Business Management & Administration, Education & Training, Finance, Government & Public Administration, Health Science, Hospitality & Tourism, Human Services, Information Technology, Law; Public Safety, Corrections & Security; Manufacturing, Marketing; Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics; and Transportation, Distribution & Logistics.
Several employers convened in the parking lot of the O’Dell Center for Manufacturing Excellence. The Be Pro Be Proud trailer displayed virtual versions of jobs such as operating a forklift, driving a truck and welding. Also included in the parking lot were an ambulance, utility trucks, concrete mixer truck, and hundreds of tools.
Local industries, businesses and agencies including Impresa Building Systems, Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC), EA Sween Company, Greenwood CPW, Greenwood Mills, Eaton, Generac, Lonza, Self Regional Healthcare, Monti Incorporated, BMW, Velux, and SC Department of Transportation set up tables inside the Medford Center.
“Of course the students are excited to be out and about, but I really think what is different about this event is it lets them be interactive and that is always exciting to see,” Nodine said.
Director of Communications at GGC Lori Bassett was pleased with the interaction she had with the students.
“There was a lot of energy in that room,” Bassett said. “It was wonderful to share our work and connect with students who are interested in the health sciences.”
She said the eighth-graders were attentive.
“Students were interested in what we do at GGC and especially how to use the lab equipment that we brought to display. The ones who stopped by our booth were respectful, attentive and interested in what we do.
“We were very encouraged that many of the students remembered us coming to their classrooms last year. They recognized the lab equipment and even our instructors. Reaching them early definitely makes a lasting impact.”
Bassett said the event was beneficial to GGC.
“These events help us to showcase the Greenwood Genetic Center and share what we do and why we do it. One of our long-term goals is to inspire students to consider the various career opportunities in genetics and maybe, one day, come and work with us. It also allows us to connect with teachers and let them know what educational offerings we have available to them and their students.”
Greenwood Mills Human Resources Director Emily Dickson was pleased with the interaction at her table.
“I enjoy showing our current students and future employees about manufacturing, our company history and what future opportunities they have right here in Greenwood,” Dickson said.
“We were impressed with the students’ interest in what our company produces and how clothing is made,” she added. “Greenwood Mills has the opportunity to inform and teach our young students who will be in the workforce one day, what skills and education they need to be able to work for a company such as ours. We can show them the benefits of working for us and encourage them to reach out when they are ready to enter the workforce.”
EA Sween Talent Acquisition Manager James Brewer was also pleased with the interaction with students.
“As a new company in the area, it was great to share who we are and why we are coming to Greenwood area, but also talk to the students about future opportunities that they will have as they move into the workforce,” Brewer said. “It’s always fun interacting with the students to let them know the opportunities they will have for careers in their future.”
Nodine said everyone likely benefitted from the Showcase.
“I think it is wonderful for companies to see the future of the workforce,” she said. “It also is a great opportunity for students to put a product or service with a name and understand there are so many opportunities out there.
“Piedmont Tech is a wonderful partner and this was a great opportunity for them to showcase their academic programs that are available to students and help students understand there are so many paths in education,” Nodine added.