Advisory Committees are key to BPSTIL’s success

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BPSTIL graphic arts teacher Jon Johnson addresses his Advisory Committee group.

Story by Sonja Bailes, Special to the Press-Tribune

Landing a job is one thing; keeping it is another.

Principal Jayda Spillers is determined students taking career and technical education courses at the soon-to-open Bossier Parish School for Technology and Innovative Learning will do both because they will know firsthand what employers need and expect from them when entering the workforce.

Before school adjourned for the summer, the principal and her staff invited business and industry leaders to participate in a first-of-its-kind meeting to establish Advisory Committees at BPSTIL. Representatives in business, carpentry, collision repair, child care and health occupations listened intently as Spillers solicited their help.

“We want your input because we’re trying to turn out a product that will help you,” Spillers told the group. “We want you to start connecting with our teachers so we are teaching students the skills you need in the workforce.”

Participants then split into groups according to their fields of expertise, reviewed curriculum and offered candid comments about what needs to be added or omitted. They also discussed attributes they look for in prospective employees.

One gentleman who owns a carpentry business said when hiring, “The first two questions I ask are ‘do you have a car?’ and ‘do you know how to use a tape measure?’ ‘And don’t just tell me yes. Show me.’”

The conversation was lively in business teacher Kathye Blackburn’s group, where the dialogue centered around a lack of soft skills; a problem, they added, that is not exclusive to younger workers.  An accountant relayed this story about someone her firm had hired.

“They didn’t have soft skills and we ended up having to fire them because they couldn’t get along with staff,” she said.

Sandy Cimino with Community Bank of Louisiana chimed in on the importance of good customer relations. “If you insult customers, they’ll go to another bank.”

Automotive Technology teacher Jeremy Dreher said he received valuable feedback on the latest tools used in his trade and the equipment required to teach it. Carpentry teacher Tim Anderson also took suggestions to heart about the need for students to be proficient in using a belt sander and worm drive saw.

As a result, Anderson said “I have put worm drive saws on my needs assessment for the 2015-16 school year and plan to incorporate a lesson on concrete work.”

Spillers added perspective from industry insiders is especially invaluable when it comes to various equipment used in their line of work.

“If they don’t use it (certain equipment) and it’s obsolete, we don’t need to waste time on that,” she commented.

Spillers hopes once school gets underway and the advisory panels are established, it will translate into internships and work opportunities for students. Committees are still being formed, particularly for the new courses being added, and Spillers said anyone wishing to take part is more than welcome. Just give her a phone call at (318) 676-7811, extension 152.

“It’s exciting to see how they’re going to build these departments,” Spillers said. “The energy they’re bringing is contagious.”

Sonja Bailes is Public Relations Liasion for Bossier Parish Schools