WBL Program at VHS Helps Address Skill Deficit

Barbara Kieker

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Ask any small-town business owner what their number one challenge is and they are likely to talk about the difficulty of finding skilled employees with a strong work ethic.  The Work Based Learning (WBL) program at Valdosta High School (VHS) and other area schools is helping local employers address that challenge. 

"We have a skill deficit in Lowndes County and really all over the state," said Keith Middleton, WBL coordinator at VHS.  "The WBL program places in local businesses students who have a good work ethic, can speak clearly and present themselves well to the public."

VHS currently offers career and technical education programs in automotive service technology, business education, construction, architecture drawing and design, graphic communications, healthcare science technology, metals, government and public safety, and Naval ROTC.  Fifteen VHS students are currently enrolled in WBL although Middleton expects that number to increase to up to 45 students in the spring, which is a more typical number.

What Local Businesses Have to Say

Middleton believes that a very high percentage of businesses that have employed WBL program students are pleased with the experience.  IPG, an architectural design and production firm based in Valdosta, has employed about a dozen interns from the WBL program over the past 20 years. 

Dean Rexroth, staff architect and a member of the Valdosta City School Board, has mentored several students during IPG's participation in the WBL program.  According to Rexroth, IPG's owner Rob Evans has embraced this and other internship programs. 

"It's an opportunity to make a connection with the shining stars from local schools.  Students get acquainted with us and that makes them more comfortable when they come looking for a position after college," Rexroth said.

"Plus interns are able to contribute quickly in producing drawings for our clients.  And it helps students to experience real work."

Rexroth would recommend the WBL program to other businesses in the area saying, "It has worked well for IPG over the years."

How Local Businesses Can Help

According to Middleton, there are three ways local businesses can support the WBL program.

Provide an opportunity for a student to work in your business as an intern or apprentice.  Businesses are not required to participate every year, only when they have a need.

Participate as a guest speaker for career and technical education classes at VHS.  

"When students hear from a business person that they need a certain skillset to succeed, it has a much bigger impact than if they hear it from me," Middleton said.

Serve on the WBL Advisory Board.  The 10- to 12-member board has a direct effect on the WBL curricula.  New business leaders rotate on to the board every year.

To participate in the WBL program or learn more, contact Keith Middleton at (229) 333-8595 or kmiddleton@gocats.org.

About Barbara Kieker

Barbara Kieker is a freelance writer who writes on business-related topics for a number of web-based properties. She also provides communications services to Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.