Franklin County Schools Team Up with Business to Teach Students Skills for the Future Workforce

District C logo

Across North Carolina, communities have joined forces with business and education leaders to prepare students and workers for a changing workplace. 

Automation and artificial intelligence continue to change the skills employees need to succeed. To secure a position in biomanufacturing, employers are seeking individuals who have a general knowledge of chemistry and current Good Manufacturing Practices. These skills can be acquired through the BioWork certificate program offered at 10 of the state’s community colleges.

TeamworkHowever, education leaders argue that building technical skills is not the only way for students to prepare for the jobs of the future. District C, a Raleigh-based nonprofit, has created a new approach that gives high school students an opportunity to build collaboration and problem-solving skills through what the organization refers to as “purposeful coaching.” 

“If we want to teach our young people how to work in teams to solve complex, real-world problems, we need to give them more opportunities to do just that,” said Anne Jones, District C’s chief strategy officer. “But opportunities aren’t enough. The real learning happens through purposeful coaching from trained experts. Authentic team-based experiences with expert coaching – this is the heart of the “Teamship” model.”

According to Jones, some internship models favor students with social capital and family networks and offer low-level administrative positions that do not provide real-world experience. Some internships also lack ongoing feedback from the student’s manager.

District C’s Teamship programs, on the other hand, are completed with schools, creating opportunities for all students to participate. In addition, up to 12 students at a time can work with local corporate partners to solve real business issues through team-based problem-solving.

Earlier this summer, District C coaches led a summer Teamship experience for 50 students from Franklin County Schools. The nonprofit partnered with six companies, including Franklinton-based Novozymes, to lead students through a four-day program at Louisburg College.

“The one commonality is that all of our partners believe in the need to prepare our students differently for an economy that is rapidly changing, and the business community has an important role to play,” said Jones. “They also believe access to prepared talent is the single most important driver of success for the businesses and institutions at the heart of our communities and that a diverse, equitable, and inclusive approach to talent development is not only the fair and ethical path forward it's also good for business.”

The Teamship project also connected Franklin County Schools with its neighbor, Novozymes.  Novozymes logo

"We want to continue to build our partnership with Novozymes, and this experience has allowed us to grow our partnership with them,” said Danyelle Parker, EdD, executive director of Secondary Education and Career and Technical Education at Franklin County Schools. “Solving this problem has allowed our students to learn about a local company that's right in their backyard that they may not have known about. Sometimes small steps can create new opportunities for our district and Novozymes to partner for the betterment of our community.”

While students worked in teams of four, District C coaches led sessions on critical thinking and teamwork, two areas that students will need as they get older.

“Work is changing,” said Jones. “In the face of automation and artificial intelligence, employers increasingly need their human employees to be good at the things that machines, computers, and robots cannot do: work in diverse teams to solve novel, complex problems.”

Mindy Hamlin, NCBiotech Writer
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