Jobs are here if you have the skills, teachers say

Jul. 16, 2014 @ 06:24 AM

There is not a shortage of jobs in Caldwell County for people who have the right technical skills, said three educators who toured 11 local industries in recent weeks.

All three said they were amazed at the opportunities they saw.

But they also heard repeatedly from the employers that even those who have technical skills often seem to lack vital “soft skills,” such as the ability to show up at work on time, every day, and to meet deadlines.

Freda Parker of Caldwell Career Center Middle College, Tom Mendenall of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, and Beth Fox of William Lenoir Middle School were among 22 teachers who toured the industries and met with company officials as part of an effort to increase awareness of the advanced-manufacturing job opportunities local students could face when they graduate. The three spoke Tuesday about the experience at a meeting of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.

Fox, whose classes include work on robotics and an introduction to software used in engineering classes, said that until the tours she didn't know how much of what she teaches was directly applicable so many local jobs that she didn't even know existed.

“I had no idea. I live here. I was raised here,” she said.

Mendenhall, who said he has lived here for over eight years, said that what he saw defied what he has always heard local residents say – what he called “ideas and mis-ideas” – about the local economy and job market.

The gap between those expectations and the types of manufacturing jobs that exist here was a reason for working with teachers, said Deborah Murrah, the executive director of the Economic Development Commission. Many factory jobs require more technical skills and also pay much better than factory jobs of the past, and company executives are concerned about getting that message to young people.

Parker, who once worked for Broyhill Furniture Industries and teaches engineering skills, said she was so stunned by the job opportunities she saw that she cried.

“To know that Caldwell County is alive and we are preparing them … It gave me a lot of hope,” she said.