Kyle Thompson is an Algebra II teacher at Washington County Technical High School. He landed a spot in the Maryland Chamber Foundation Teacher Externship Pilot program and was paired with Maryland Chamber member and manufacturer Volvo Group Trucks Operations in Hagerstown, MD.
What is the Teacher Externship Pilot program? The Teacher Externship Pilot offers an additional pathway to improve workforce development and the talent pipeline in Maryland. This pilot was designed to integrate teachers into the workforce for four weeks over the summer break, to give them hands-on experience in the field that complements what they teach. The objective is for teachers to glean the hard and soft skills necessary to join the 21st century workforce and to integrate what they learn into their curriculum.
With that in mind, Sara Golden of Volvo worked closely with Thompson to design an externship that would fit the needs of both parties. They started out getting a lay of the land so Golden scheduled interviews and Thompson began shadowing to learn about a range of positions in the company including, logistics, engineering, maintenance, and line work. “There are so many different types of jobs here so it was useful to get to experience all of them,” explained Thompson. “I wanted to collect data, get a general consensus from everybody that I interviewed, what they were looking for, and what are some things that they have seen new employees need more work on. I wanted to know what can I do to better prepare these students to come into a workforce like this?”
What Thompson found was that teamwork was highly emphasized throughout the organization. The ability to speak in front of a group of people and rely on each other to achieve results is what is important. Thompson has already started to incorporate lessons learned into practical applications though his syllabus, including expectations for the classroom that will in turn prepare students for the workforce.
Asked if there were any technical skills Volvo employees are seeing gaps in, they mainly touched on soft skills, Thompson responded, “everybody I talked to definitely wanted more work on the soft skills, so that was one of the first things I wanted to address.” He plans to work on teamwork using the popular game Password, where his students will have to work together to have their classmates guess the vocabulary word they are describing, a math word of course.
He also noticed that other than soft skills, everyone was looking for talent who can work through the problem solving process and who is willing to improve and move up through the ranks, not just treat Volvo like a 9-5 job.
While Thompson completed his externship on July 12th, the relationship with Volvo won’t stop there. “Volvo really wants to be more connected. Talent for skilled trades is a nationwide issue and individually to the company,” said Golden. To let students know that there are opportunities at Volvo and ones that they can get into relatively quickly if they work hard is important. “If students go to college for engineering, know that they have internships here. Volvo has a program for high school graduates for the summer before they go to college,” Golden continued. There are a lot of happenings, but students aren’t as aware of them. Golden is looking forward to fostering the relationship with Washington County Technical High School and Thompson is looking forward to being a representative for the county and talking with the engineering teacher, electrical construction students and the auto tech students to spread the word about opportunities.