Teachers study workplace; businesses receive benefits

August 7, 2009
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There’s nothing quite like hands-on learning and from Aug. 3-6, local teachers were able to do just that.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Education and Workforce Development Committee and Kent Intermediate School District collaborated for the four-day program called Educator in the Workplace.

“It is imperative for our businesses and educators to work together to develop a strong work force for the future,” said Jeanne Englehart, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber.

On Monday, the first day of the program, the 15 teachers were introduced to the program, and then were divided into groups. Each group spent the afternoon and the following day at one of the participating companies, and then on Wednesday, traveled to a different company. Participating companies included Amway, Cascade Engineering, Granger Construction, The Rapid, Wolverine Coil & Spring and others.

The teachers and the company representatives met for a luncheon on Thursday where the teachers presented lesson plans they had created incorporating what they had learned in the field. Later in the school year, the teachers will implement these lesson plans and the company representatives will serve as a classroom resource.

This marks the second year of the program.

“Our participation from both educators and business has doubled,” said Tara Walkotten, public policy coordinator for GRACC who also staffs the chamber’s Workforce Development Committee.

“Most of the teachers are from the Kent Intermediate School District, but we also have one who had heard about the program and is joining us from the Detroit area. We do have one guidance counselor that is participating, as well.”

Walkotten said the program helps teachers explain to students why they are learning certain skills and information, but the program benefits businesses too.

“Every day I hear from businesses that they are having to retrain many of their workers, because they’re not getting some of those soft skills from their new employees,” said Walkotten. “We’re trying to give teachers those tools to increase the readiness of the work force. This is the businesses’ opportunity to have their hand in educating their future work force, to help identify some of those things they see their work force lacking.”

Walkotten said that with the economy the way it is, it is important for employers to spend less time retraining employees.

“The partnership between business and education is so important. We need an innovative and well-trained work force to be successful as a state.”

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