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Local business leaders share workplace insight with BCSD educators

Published Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Rob Sanchez of Google at Teacher Forum event

Rob Sanchez, Operations Manager at the Moncks Corner Google Data Center speaks to teachers at the 2018 BCSD Teacher Forum Summer Planning Retreat. (BCSD photo)

Educators recognized as Teacher of the Year from every school in Berkeley County gathered this week for a planning retreat organized to better prepare them as teacher leaders.

From strategies behind flipped classrooms to discussions on how to be a more effective leader, there were several takeaways for BCSD’s top educators.

While there were many discussions with memorable moments, it’s conceivable the most valuable was one that left champions of rubric, instruction and knowledge with something tangible. On the first day of the retreat, a panel of local business leaders participated in a discussion that confirmed what educators already knew but established a connection to the world outside the classroom.

“Validation was the biggest takeaway,” 2017-18 BCSD Teacher of the Year Nick Snyder said.

As last year’s top educator, Snyder was behind much of the planning for the event. His goal when he reached out to business leaders was to make that connection and learn from them what students lack when they leave school and enter the workforce.

“Most teachers knew of things the business leaders shared, but hearing it directly from the source, rather than an administrator or consultant was beneficial,” Snyder said.

Soft skills, fear of failure and inability to adapt to change

There were three topics where those representing local employers seemed to agree most. Those topics were all about failure, ability to adapt and soft skills.

Business leaders from Google, Santee Cooper, Boeing and elsewhere agreed – today’s young workers seem more intelligent but lack communication skills, are prone to self-destruct and are afraid to take risks.

“We don’t need the same type of workers we needed 20 years ago,” Brandy Incorvia of Santee Cooper said. “...Now we’re having jobs we didn’t even know we needed. We need people who know how to learn. We don’t need somebody who can repeat a textbook. I need someone who can think on their own and is ok with making a mistake.”

Incorvia said those new employees fresh out of school often lack the understanding that failure IS an option. “Once they fail, they self-destruct,” she said.

“Adaptability to change, that’s what’s going to keep us moving forward,” said local small business owner Philip Canipe.

Those needing more convincing that business success is often built upon mistakes needed to look no further than Rob Sanchez, Operations Manager at the Moncks Corner Google Data Center. Sanchez described how Google is a company built on risk-taking and things learned from experimentation.

“At Google, part of our mantra is ‘try lots of different things and fail fast,’” he said. “…That is one of the biggest things that I see as a challenge for us.”

When it comes to soft skills those sitting before our teachers described interviews with freshly-graduated students wearing flip-flops and dressed in athletic wear. They described a disconnect with what the business world expects. The ability to communicate and work on a team is also often lacking.

“Push kids to pursue activities that encourage teamwork,” Don Smith of Hendrick Automotive said.

Frank Hatten of Boeing spends a majority of each day working with programs across the state – taking a proactive approach to what local employers are seeing is missing in the younger workforce.

“This generation of young men and women is extremely bright, it’s the soft skills, communication skills, things like that,” he said. “When they get to us, they start failing.”

Hatten described the lack of soft skills as “killing our young people in the workplace.”

“There’s something we have to do collectively to get ahead of the curve on this,” he said.

While it may not have been breaking news to BCSD teachers, they all walked away with ideas on how to continue lumping in lessons on communication, teamwork, failure and business expectations into everyday classroom assignments.

“This is what the business world demands,” Snyder said. “I can now tell my students, these are the skills you need and why. …Now that the connection exists, I can even invite some of these business leaders to my classroom.”

If you speak to Santee Cooper’s Brandy Incorvia, she’ll tell you that engaging teachers and students is what more business leaders need to be doing.

“We are here for you,” she said. “We need that product that you are producing more than we need anything else.”

Teacher Forum group photo

Business leaders and members of the BCSD Teacher Forum gathered for a group photo following the "What skills do our students need?" session of the retreat. (BCSD photo)


Brian Troutman