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State of the Region: Businesses urged to provide role models

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Wayne Washington, left, Human Resources Manager at Hyster-Yale Group, and Patrick Miller, superintendent of Greene County Schools, participate in a panel discussion during the annual NC East Alliance State of the Region discussion on Thursday.

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By Kim Grizzard
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, April 6, 2019

To aid in workforce development, businesses and industries need to contribute more to education than money. That was one message of the 2109 State of the Region meeting held Thursday at the Greenville Convention Center.

“We have to provide role models in schools, and that has to be done by business and industry,” said Stephan Turnipseed, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Pitsco Education, a Kansas-based educational products and curricula company.

“For far too long, business and industry has stood on the sidelines with checkbook philanthropy,” Turnipseed said at the event, hosted by NCEast Alliance, a 28-county nonprofit regional partnership that seeks to serve eastern North Carolina economic and workforce development needs. “We have to get off the sidelines.”

This year's event, which had the theme “The New Face of Innovation,” drew students and educators from several eastern North Carolina counties to help industry leaders envision the workforce of 2030.

“This world will be very different in 2030, ’31 and ’32,” Turnipseed, former president of LEGO Education North America, said. “By some estimates, between 65 and 85 percent of the jobs haven't even been created yet. So how do we prepare children for that (new) world?”

Turnipseed, who chaired the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, said communities always have asked that question, but there is a greater urgency today because of the shift in technology.

Several years ago, he and 27 fellow members of the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution asked themselves to imagine an educational system that was not based on the current model. The panel concluded that there needs to be a paradigm shift to center on the learner.

“Education must be personalized, relevant and contextualized; it has to tie into the passions of the children,” Turnipseed said. “It has to be competency-based. It has to be for mastery, not just certification. … If you get a high school diploma but it's not worth anything to you, what have you accomplished?”

He said that for too long, children have been taught to have a deficit mind-set rather than a growth mind-set that acknowledges failures as opportunities to learn. He said the “test-and-punish” culture overemphasizes standardized testing, which he said is evidenced by the recent college admissions cheating scandal.

“The tools that we had in the past, the tools that I had when I graduated as an engineer, were largely related to what I could remember and how well I could use what I could remember,” he said. “That is no longer the case. Content is readily available to everybody through the internet.”

For the workforce of the future, Turnipseed said, students will need skills such as creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication. He called on industry leaders to serve as mentors to students to show them what opportunities could be available to them.

“We have to work together. That's what I think is the power of this meeting and the power of you in this room and the alliance,” he said. “You're proving that it's possible to work together, and by working together, change the trajectory of the lives of these young people.”

Members of a panel addressing the issue on workforce pipeline progress agreed that education and industry partnerships were key.

Wayne Washington, human resources development director of Design Engineering and STEM Lead at Hyster-Yale Group, said the company has begun working with students in middle school to help introduce them to jobs in science, technology, engineering and math that are available close to home.

Mark Meno, chief engineer at Fleet Readiness Center East in Cherry Point, said the company has spent the last decade trying to find the best ways to capture the local workforce. But many skilled jobs remain difficult to fill, in part because students are not aware that such jobs exist.

“How do we engage the kids at that middle school level to let them know these jobs are out here and there are a lot of other ways to get to them other than, 'I have to pass calculus in high school'? he said.

“We cannot expect the guidance counselors and the teachers to fill that gap. … That's on us,” Meno said.

Greene County Schools Superintendent Patrick Miller said schools also need to be willing to adapt to changing needs of the industry. He recalled a conversation a few years ago in which he was made aware that there were hundreds of unfilled jobs in the region in the area of computer-integrated machining and yet the school system offered no training to prepare students for the industry.

Greene County Schools, partnering with Lenoir Community College, applied for a grant to establish a CIM lab on campus. Students who were taught in that lab are now being offered jobs, Miller said.

“I think it's important to realize that as a region, the schools don't need to operate in a vacuum,” he said.

“I think a lot of that conversation has been absent in the past … but we are beginning to move forward more collaboratively,” Miller said.

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