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BHS Teachers Connect With Businesses to Learn In-Demand Skills

Thanks to a grant received by the Westmoreland/Fayette Workforce Investment Board (WIB), school districts in the Westmoreland County Forum for Workforce Development were able to participate in the Teacher in the Workplace program provided by the WIB.

Four Burrell School District educators have been connecting with local businesses and industry leaders in the community to learn about specific opportunities, needs, and trends as they bring these ideas back to the classroom to help students with career readiness and learning.

To keep things well-balanced, the district selected four high school core department chairs to attend the visits: Anthony Facemyre (Social Studies), Meghan Nese (English/Language Arts), Bryan Mike (Science), and Kim Abel (Math).

“The idea is to make connections, obvious or otherwise, across disciplines as we integrate what has been learned from the experience,” said Mr. Facemyre.

So far, the teachers have visited Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7 (WIU) to brainstorm with teachers from other districts, listen to a presentation about employment opportunities in the Pittsburgh area, and question a panel of six representatives from companies in Westmoreland County about how to better prepare students for the workplace.

They’ve also had visits to Excela Health, Oberg Industries, Ultra Precision, and Allegheny Valley Hospital. The group has a few more sessions planned, including a day at the Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center and another day at WIU.

Throughout their experiences, the teachers say there were a few common necessary skills employers were looking for.

“The skills and qualities that were mentioned repeatedly were those that have traditionally been characterized as ‘soft skills,’ such as interpersonal communication, attention to detail, technical writing, punctuality, a solid work ethic, a willingness to learn (and continue learning), following directions, problem solving, creativity, and compassion for others,“ said Mr. Facemyre.

While educational content, such as algebra or biology, was also ranked highly by employers, Nese said this wasn’t a top priority.

“Employers stressed that content could be learned, and as long as new employees were trainable — eagerly willing to continue their learning process — they were retainable and likely to advance in their career,” said Nese.

The next step is trying to integrate what has been learned into school curriculum. Mr. Facemyre and Ms. Nese imagine this will come in the form of grade-level skills that students will demonstrate as they complete each year.

Overall, both teachers and leadership agree the program has been a success.

“I have heard nothing but positive commentary from our teachers on the program,” said Dr. John Boylan, High School Principal.

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