EDTalks series keys in on connecting education, jobs

Chris Jackson/The Register-HeraldWVU Tech EDTalks keynote speaker Tim O’Neal, production director with The Dow Chemical Company, speaks during the fifth event in the speaking series on “Connecting Education, Jobs and Our Future” at Carter Hall in Beckley on Thursday.

EDTalks, an education-based speaker series, held its fifth event Thursday in Beckley, where three speakers shared their ideas with community leaders on how to connect education, jobs and the future. 

“No one sees themselves in long-term relationships in their workforce,” said Rochelle Goodwin, senior associate vice president for academic and public strategy at West Virginia University. 

Many people in her grandparents’ generation went straight from high school into lifelong careers, or only held a handful of job titles throughout the years. 

Today, the landscape is much different. Millennials, those who were born after 1980, on average stay less than three years at a job, she said. 

“With job changes that may reach into the dozens, we much teach our children how they can navigate that.”

Goodwin also discussed the importance of not only educational skill sets, but “soft skills” as well, such as professionalism and manners. 

Phillip Ferrier, director of the James C. Justice National Scout Camp at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, encouraged everyone to bring camp into the classroom by building campfires, earning badges and taking hikes.

By “building a campfire,” teachers should create safe spaces for self-expression and exploration, Ferrier said. Earning badges relates to encouraging youngsters to get outside their comfort zones. And “taking a hike” is all about getting outside and learning from nature. 

“Outdoors can be the teacher. All you need is a guide,” Ferrier said. “It may spark students’ interest in biology, plants or science.”

Tim O’Neal, production director for The Dow Chemical Co. for a number of plants and facilities in West Virginia Operations, offered a corporate perspective. 

He emphasized the importance of getting teachers behind the scenes of business to fully understand the needs of the future workforce. He also talked about STEM-onstrations, demonstrations that focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

“Companies are being impacted by the continued expansion of the skills gap — the gap separating the expectations of today’s employers from the skills workers actually offer,” O’Neal said. 

“I believe that industry must be proactive to address the root cause of this issue by supporting our youth in their career and educational choices.”

Other ideas shared at the event included offering more STEM internships to high school students, exposing students at a younger age to higher educational opportunities, and taking a closer look at the restrictions in school systems that may not allow for exploration in different career fields.  

— Email: wholdren@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren

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