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Getting ‘Ready to Work’: DHS program preparing students for area’s high demand jobs

Demopolis High School is participating in a pilot program designed to help the next generation of workers be prepared for real-life jobs that are in high demand and, in many cases, high-paying.

Through the Ready to Work pilot program at Demopolis High School, students are being introduced to high-demand jobs. Among the early partners in the program is Burkes Crane, which brought a crane to the campus for students to test.

Ready to Work is a program that allows industries and businesses to partner with schools to introduce students to career paths they may not have considered previously. Through the Alabama Department of Education, DHS teachers have undergone special training for the classes. Among them is Connie Davis, who serves as the DHS Ready to Work Director and Courtney Kerby, Ready to Work Instructor.

The program teaches students about the things today’s employers expect from its workers — showing up on time and working while on the clock — while also teaching students about the jobs that are in high-demand across the area.

“Industry began reaching out to education and now we are working together with the goal of graduating students who are ready to work and possess the necessary job skills needed to be successful,” Davis said.

Currently, DHS has 23 students enrolled in the program with Ready to Work curriculum being utilized through the school’s existing career tech program.

Davis said one of the early steps for the program was to begin communicating with employers about their needs.

“We organized an advisory committee meeting that included a broad base of industry and business leaders. The goal is to find out what we can do to create the workers they need and from there we will map out a plan to meet those needs,” Davis said.

When first approached about the program, Davis said local industries were quick to jump on board. “Everyone is on the same page and we have the same goals. Industry is responding very positively because they see the potential; they want to be a part of this,” she said.

The first industry leaders to join the partnership were Gray Allen and Chad Wideman of Burkes Crane. Burkes quickly made an impact, bringing a crane to the high school where interested students could give it a test.

“It introduced students to crane work to see if it is something they would be interested in doing,” Davis said.

But, it’s more than just introducing students to occupations; the Ready to Work program is designed to directly lead students into jobs after graduation.

“The exciting part is that these companies are looking for employees. Burkes will be coming back and, if a student is 18, they could be hired. This is creating real potential for our students,” Davis said.

Other early participants in the program are Anderson Heating and Electric and Gaddy Electric. In fact, the two local businesses had formed a partnership with the school system that led to an HVAC at DHS along with Shelton State Community College.

“They are coming into our classes and doing demonstrations, but they want the kids to do different simulations and will talk to them about the opportunities that exist within their business,” she said.

Other businesses are also joining the effort. Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital Human Resources Director Felicia Collins will be working with students to help them prepare for interviewing and building resumes. Rick Dunn of Merchants and Farmers Bank have spoken to students about real-life finances and budgeting.

“Basically, we are asking our industry and business leaders to bring their expertise to the Ready to Work program,” Davis said. “It may not be directly related to a job, but there is great value in the things they can share with our students.”

As the program continues to grow, Davis said the greater potential for students to land jobs upon graduation.

“There is so much potential here and we want to build the best program for our students, industries, and our community. It is very exciting to be a part of this … we are truly creating futures for our students,” Davis said.

To participate in the program, a student must be a senior and take the course as an elective.

“This is a big-picture program — what can we build together as a community? It is still a work in progress and we want to see it grow as we continue to build partnerships with industry, businesses, the community and parents,” Davis said.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, December 26 issue of the Demopolis Times.)