Business & Economic News

Business, education leaders team up to guide students

Carter Giegerich

January 26, 2018

A newly formed group of business leaders and local education officials is coming together to offer guidance for Macon County students as they make the transition from high school to the workforce or higher education.

“The Business Advisory Council in each school system has to be set up, as directed by state law, as a partnership between a council of businesspeople and the school system,” said Macon County Schools career and technical education director Todd Gibbs. “The council reports to the board of education annually on its recommendations for the career and technical education program’s instructions, activities and services.”

The council will consist of education staff, including Gibbs, MCS Superintendent Chris Baldwin and Southwestern Community College Dean Don Tomas, as well as members of the local business community including TekTone’s Johnny Mira-Knippel, Lazy Hiker Brewing co-founder Ken Murphy, Angel Medical Center President Karen Gorby, Economic Development Commission Director Tommy Jenkins, Duke Energy District Manager Lisa Leatherman and NC Works Career Center Manager Dale West.

Murphy said the students in Macon County will benefit greatly from having this type of direction as they finish their high school education, no matter what their next move might be.

“One benefit for the students is this makes sure, in an advanced capacity, that they have the skills to land productive jobs when they graduate or have the background to continue their education,” Murphy said.

To Jenkins, the benefits are mutual – students develop skills they can take into their future pursuits, and local businesses have a larger local labor pool to tap into for employees.

“From the economic development side, we feel it’s a good opportunity for the schools and business community to partner and see what gaps exist in workforce development, and to prepare our young folks for the workforce of the future,” Murphy said.

A young workforce with a more diverse set of skills might make Franklin more appealing to companies looking to expand, as well.

“It benefits the local economy to provide a skilled workforce for businesses from people that are already here, and give incentive for businesses to locate here,” Murphy said.

The council will work in an advisory role, Gibbs said, pooling knowledge to give direction to the CTE programs in Macon County. From there, it will be up to the individual schools and CTE teachers to implement that guidance into their lesson plans.

“The council won’t interact with students directly. I expect we’ll meet and say ‘we need people that know this, can do this’ and so on,” Gibbs said. “And we, as a school system, will look at our career and technical education program and say ‘we can help you by changing this a bit and that a bit.’”

Murphy said the programs in the schools are already teaching students important skills in the classroom, but having this type of partnership with the school system will help introduce more of the ever-growing number of skills effective workers in all industries need in a real-world context.

“There are more and more demands, even for everyday positions and positions with automation. They require a lot more skills than in the past, and more technical abilities,” Murphy said. “While I know our educators have the ability to teach those sorts of things, I think it’s important for students and teachers to have a group that can explain the real value of those skills and for the things kids are taught in school to not just be textbook skills. They need real world skills. I think it’s important for people who can shed light on that to do so.”