Although many businesses and school-related programs have been curtailed because of COVID-19, the Next Generation Career Academy sponsored by Surry County Schools and Surry Community College has continued this fall.

The program has placed 12 interns with area businesses during the autumn semester.

The Next Generation Career Academy began in 2017 as Dr. Travis Reeves, superintendent of Surry County Schools, and Dr. David Shockley, Surry Community College president, brainstormed ways to create a workforce development program. Their desire was to facilitate a program in which students would complete internships or apprenticeships with local business and industry partners that could ultimately lead to employment.

The Golden LEAF Foundation’s funding made the dream a reality.

“The Next Generation Career Academy continues to evolve. In the spring, Insteel partnered with us to begin an apprenticeship program in machining and signed one apprentice for full-time employment,” said Crystal Folger-Hawks, the career coach for Surry County Schools and Surry Community College.

”I am currently working with other businesses who are receptive to partner with us to expand the apprenticeship programs, and I am pleased Insteel will continue with us for a second year.”

Folger-Hawks continued, “I think this speaks volumes that businesses are seeking our students to fill their employment needs. Additionally, it is great for us to be able to provide internship opportunities for our own students as Surry County Schools is hosting two interns as school custodians.”

“Northern Regional Hospital is fortunate to partner with Surry County Schools and Surry Community College to find local talent in the healthcare industry,” said Christi Smiley, human resources director, Northern Regional Hospital. “They are helping us fill the need for qualified employees and students get hands-on experience. This is a win-win for business and education partners.”

Students are enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) course at Surry Community College, and these students will be looking for internships in the spring. Other points of interest regarding the Next Generation Career Academy and how the program has exceeded the Golden LEAF Foundation’s grant milestones include:

• 41 students have obtained a minimum of twelve credit hours of college credit or an Associate in Science degree. The Golden LEAF Foundation goal was 30.

• 70 students have earned a total of 144 industry-recognized/third-party credentials. The Golden LEAF Foundation goal was 30.

• 73 students completed a minimum of 100 hours of work experience through internships or other work-based learning. Again Golden LEAF Foundation goal was 30.

An average of 92% of program graduates obtained employment in their field of study within six months or continued training in advanced manufacturing programs or STEM-related fields, according to SCS. The Golden LEAF Foundation goal was 80%.

“I am so proud of our students and the partnership we have cultivated with Dr. Shockley and Surry Community College,” said Reeves.

”The ability of our school system to collaborate with the community college to provide students learning experiences steeped in real-world application is invaluable. Students are not only learning the curriculum but they are applying that knowledge to the world of work. The Next Generation Career Academy has been a tremendous benefit to our local businesses, with our students both contributing to local business workforces and benefiting from the hands-on learning.”

To date, here is how Career Academy interns have participated in work-based learning by doing and contributing to workforce development, by the numbers:

• 88 students have participated in the Next Generation Career Academy internship program.

• 34 local business partners have hosted interns.

• 34 students have committed to continue working with their company on a full- or part-time basis at job signings.

“To be able to couple the academic classroom with a hands-on, real-world experience makes the big difference in education,” Shockley said. “This is where the rubber hits the road; when students have light bulb moments of being able to apply classroom instruction into an everyday work setting.

“This experience is valuable to students in that it helps them network with local professionals and build up their resume experience,” said Shockley.

“I am proud and delighted of the partnership we forged with Dr. Reeves and the Surry County Schools to establish the Next Generation Career Academy, and I look forward to seeing future student successes from this program. We are grateful to Golden LEAF for supporting our students through its grant program.”

“Golden LEAF is proud to support innovative strategies that help develop a skilled workforce,” said Scott T. Hamilton, Golden LEAF president, and CEO. “This project is a great example of how public-private partnerships can create sustainable programs that meet the needs of local business.”