Local Leaders Explore Business, Education Partnerships
June 16, 2014 - Community and business leaders in the region gathered at Southeastern Technical College’s Economic Development Center in Vidalia to learn about a program in Carroll County that’s earned millions for industry and increased high school graduation rates for at-risk students by over 25 percent.
Daniel Jackson, president and CEO of Carroll Tomorrow and the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, presented “12 For Life” to the Rotary Club of Vidalia on June 11, a joint venture begun in 2007 by Southwire, Carrollton’s largest employer, and the Carroll County School System.
“They named it 12 For Life because Southwire says, ‘If we can keep a young person in school for at least 12 years, we will impact, in a positive way, the rest of their life,’” said Jackson.
Southwire was concerned about its workforce in the future, so they entered into discussions with Carroll County and Carrollton city schools to find out how they could raise the profile of manufacturing and the careers companies like Southwire could provide. A partnership developed between Southwire and the Carroll County School System, focusing on at-risk students.
Southwire purchased a 92,000 square foot industrial plant and fitted it to be a hybrid classroom-lab-manufacturing facility. The students in the program would learn and perform light manufacturing tasks, overseen by educators from the school system and supervisors from Southwire. The facility opened and the program began on January 4, 2007.
The first class, composed of students aged 16-and-over from Carroll County’s five high schools, numbered 78. Students go through the full battery of employment procedures that any new Southwire employee would.
In addition to the professional training they receive, the first 30 minutes a student reports in to the Southwire plant, a teacher spends 30 minutes with them going over life skills.
“It’s how they work with these young folks to help them: the soft skills and the life skills, these things we keep recognizing as a place where we’re missing the boat and we’ve got do a better job of helping these young people,” said Jackson.
After their 30 minutes of life skill training, the students work 4 hours on the floor of the plant, earning better than minimum wage. Those shifts can grow during the summer, with students able to work full-time hours if they are not in summer school.
“About a month ago… 114 young people walked across the stage, now from three counties, seven high schools,” said Jackson. “For these kids, at-risk kids, the odds for them to graduate are typically about 50 percent. The graduation rate for 12 For Life kids is 79 percent.”
So, what’s the cost of this to Southwire? Since the students are actually making products that Southwire can sell, it might not be what you think.
“Southwire will admit to you they’re actually making money: last year, two million dollars. Not only has this [program] worked for the community and those kids, it’s working for Southwire as well.”
Jackson shared the stories of several successful graduates from 12 For Life, as well as the success of other institutions’ similar programs that sprung up in the wake for 12 For Life.
“Any program… that’s giving these kids a chance to connect, to discover a pathway, to say, ‘If I do this, then I can enjoy something successful on the end’—that’s what all this is about.”
For more information on special events on STC’s campuses, visit www.southeasterntech.edu or call 912-538-3100 or 478-289-2200.