While many graduates are eager to begin college, enter the workforce or the military, 32 Tolles Career & Technical Center students have proven themselves employable to 22 Madison County area companies.
This month, Tolles awarded 32 seniors with the Madison County Workforce Readiness Credential, what the school and the Madison County Chamber of Commerce call “a first-of-its-kind industry-recognized credential that showcases a student’s employability.”
“These students can now have access to a number of high profile employers in Madison County, but more importantly, they can showcase to any employers that they are workforce ready with the essential ‘soft skills’ so many hiring managers are telling all schools they need,” said Tolles Superintendent Kim Wilson.
The credential program is completed by students outside of school and focuses on developing “soft skills” which include punctuality, communication and writing skills, time management, teamwork, attitude, etiquette and interviewing skills.
It requires participating high school students to keep their attendance rate at 97 percent (outside of excused absences), get good grades, tour one of Madison County’s manufacturing companies and complete community service hours.
In return, students will be guaranteed an interview at one of the participating manufacturing companies and be given a certification by the chamber as having these good basic professional “soft skills.”
According to a report by the local chamber, since last September, 23 students completed the program and four have been employed locally.
Now Tolles students have upped that to 55.
“We are very encouraged to see these students earn the credential, and their achievement helps the program grow and become even stronger,” said Madison County Chamber and Madison County Future Inc. Executive Director David Kell. “By earning this certificate, these 32 Tolles graduates will enter life after high school with confidence knowing they have the developed soft skills employers are looking for. Moreover, they know they now have an opportunity for a guaranteed interview with 15 employers in Madison County.”
Beth Fogelsong, Tolles’ career connections coordinator, worked with Kell to develop the program in 2014 as a way to help local companies find new employees by helping students develop professionally.
She has been promoting it to her students, but in the last school year had an elective “career readiness class” that helped students achieve most of the requirements.”
“I told my students, you basically have 90 percent of the requirements done, why not follow through?” she said. “It pretty much snowballed from there. We got an excellent turn out.”
As Tolles hosts students from Union and Franklin counties as well, the program is garnering respect outside of Madison County.
“Our Union and Franklin County students have earned it too, and they’ll bring it to a potential employer who usually won’t know what [the credential program is],” said Fogelsong. “But, once it’s explained they’re on board and impressed. David [Kell] and I have presented information in other counties, and they want to start something like this, too.”
Tolles isn’t the only school in Madison County to offer workforce credentials certification, it’s available at all of the local high schools in partnership with the chamber.
“I wish more students were aware of this option, where ever they are,” said Fogelsong. “These are life skills that they’ll need not only on their first interview, but the rest of their lives as an adult.”
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.