DOBSON — A grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation is helping Surry County Schools prepare kids for the workplace.

Crystal Folger-Hawks appeared before the county Board of Education Monday evening to give an update on what has happened since the launch of a new initative was announced in late September.

On Sept. 19, the school district and Surry Community College hosted an event in Mount Airy for local businesses to talk with educators about a new program called Next Generation Career Academy, sponsored by a grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation

“The foundation supports tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities working to transition to more prosperous and stable economies,” Dr. Jill Reinhardt, assistant superintendent, said at the time. “Surry County Schools pursued this grant hoping to fill some employment needs over the next few years in advanced manufacturing and STEM-related fields.”

“Students will complete internships or apprenticeships designed with local business and industry partners that can and will lead to employment,” said Dr. Travis Reeves, school superintendent.

“Students will earn industry-related career credentials such as Career Readiness Certification, OSHA Certification, Lean Six Sigma Certification, and certificates from Surry Community College in content areas such as welding, construction, nursing, computer-integrated machining, and electronics,” stated Reeves.

A visibly excited Folger-Hawks said she was kept busy the whole month of October with site visits. She began meeting individually with businesses, touring their facilities, and designing internship opportunities.

One of her main responsibilities is matching students to specific careers in the supporting businesses and then monitoring and mentoring those student interns.

“Getting involved in this program is important to Smith-Rowe, but also important to our local economy,” said Jody Phillips, vice president of Smith-Rowe Inc. “We have the opportunity to teach young people about the good jobs in our community. This will help us grow our own. This is a win-win for everyone.”

  • On Oct. 13, Folger-Hawks organized a field trip to Smith-Rowe for a group of sophomores from the Surry Early College.

It was obvious that the company had put some effort into hosting the kids, she noted. When she brought this up to Phillips, she said that he responded, “We see this as an investment.”

As this trip was for sophomores, she said she would plan for the next such event to focus on the junior class.

  • On Oct. 19, a group of carpentry students from North Surry and East Surry traveled to the N.C. State Fair in Raleigh for the 32nd-Annual N.C. Department of Commerce Appenticeship Competitions.

Folger-Hawks said she had never heard of the competition before, and it was too late to sign up by the time students learned of the events. After seeing the competitions in person, the teachers told her they plan to sign up next year.

In the carpentry pre-apprenticeship category, students were given projects to complete during a briefing. Then the two-person teams had from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to design and build their own pieces to submit for judging.

The students must supply their own equipment, which is inspected to ensure safety before the competition.

Folger-Hawks told the board that in addition to looking for intern possibilities, she is trying to see what apprenticeships she can develop with businesses.

In an internship, a student may have a good idea what field is desired, but not a specific job. An apprenticement has a tighter focus where the student has a career path and is looking for training toward a specific job(s).

Before taking this position with the new school year, Folger-Hawks was a college liaison for East Surry. She said when she has been able to sit down and use some desk time, the Pilot Center on South Main Street has been kind enough to give her a place to work. Still, she said she’d rather be spending her time with the students.