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Teachers have a difficult job preparing students for the working world that awaits them after graduation. It’s a combination of making students aware of the opportunities available and teaching the skills they need to take advantage of those opportunities.
But to do that, teachers need to know what opportunities are available in the professional work world. That’s why the Greater Ozarks Centers for Advanced Professional Studies, or GO CAPS, developed its teacher externship program: to supplement its career exploration program for high school juniors and seniors.
Faculty from 13 school districts who are selected for the program spend four days getting hands-on experience with businesses in a variety of industries and fields. The externship allows them to see how the business world puts into action the concepts and theories taught in schools. The teachers take what they’ve learned back to the classroom and share the information with students, offering business insights and getting them excited about the potential of these workplaces.
In 2015, 31 teachers participated in the externship program, visiting nearly two dozen business sites. Ron Mersch with engineering firm Olsson Associates says he was happy to be able to expose educators to civil engineering, which often gets overlooked when compared with other engineering sectors.
“It was great to show a math teacher all the different applications of what he teaches and how he can relate his experience with us to the kids in his geometry and algebra classes,” he says. “We’ve been trying for a while to reach out to high school and college kids and let them know there are great opportunities in our field. I thought the program was very successful in doing that.”
Exposing students to this real-world information is the first step toward helping them develop the skills needed to be successful in the workforce, while allowing classroom teachers to keep pace with changing industry trends and help shape the workforce businesses will need.
And as GO CAPS prepares for the second year of the teacher externship, teachers who participated in 2015 are singing its praises.
“The externship opened my eyes to the employment possibilities in the greater Springfield area,” says Robin Robertson, a business teacher at Republic High School. “I’m now able to give students examples of what employers are looking for and who those employers are.”
Mary Edgerton, business instructor and FBLA adviser at Springfield Parkview High School, says her participation allows her to share a wealth of examples with her students.
“Being able to provide real-world, industry examples of why the skills I teach in the classroom are important provides instant relevance to their learning experience,” she says. “Making connections with businesses has provided opportunities for my students to hear expert voices in my class through guest speaker events and field trip opportunities.”
The program was so well-received that it is being expanded for Year Two: More than 80 teachers will participate in 2016.
Traci Louvier, marketing communications manager with Tuthill Vacuum & Blower Systems in Springfield, says the program could help the company hire closer to home.
“Tuthill is tucked away in the northwest corner of Springfield and not too many teachers or students have heard about us, but by creating a relationship with teachers, we can now reach many more students, parents and faculty,” she says. “Tuthill would love to hire more and more local talent as opposed to recruiting from outside of Springfield or even outside of Missouri.”
Note: The growth of the teacher externship also means there’s a need for more businesses to participate. If you think your organization would be a good fit for the program, contact Rebecca Senn.