A program that pairs area teachers with local industries to help them prepare students for the workforce recently wrapped up another year.
Educators in Industry tours, facilitated by United Way of Southwest Virginia (UWSWVA), brought educators from 19 public school systems across the region into virtual contact with six regional employers.
“We do this to give teachers a resource to connect with businesses in our service area so they can understand the skill sets students will need for entry-level jobs,” Melinda Leland, director of Youth Success for UWSWVA, said. “It benefits the businesses, the teachers and the students.”
The businesses that hosted teachers this year include Tadano Mantis, K-VA-T Food Stores (Food City), Solar Biotech, Cary Street Partners, Electro-Mechanical and Pakalachian Food Truck.
“For each business, teachers learned new and different things,” Leland says. “For instance, with Pakalachian, they learned about running a food truck, and they also learned about the entrepreneurial mindset and what’s involved in starting up and growing a small business.”
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The tours began as in-person events five years ago, but the pandemic pushed the tours into the virtual Zoom environment for the last two years. That, Leland says, turned into a blessing in disguise.
“When we started doing this in 2017, we focused on middle school teachers who visited three businesses in one day. This year, we were able to bring in about 300 participants from middle and high schools who met with business operators via Zoom. That also allowed us to record the sessions and publish them on our website, unitedwayswva.org, for teachers who couldn’t attend at that particular day and time.” In addition, Leland says, teachers shared the recorded sessions directly with their students.