Students take part in mock interviewsPublished 3:51pm Thursday, April 10, 2014
Greenville High School senior Terail Snipes — dressed in a sweater vest, button-down shirt, tie and slacks — sat across a conference table from a potential employer on Thursday.
Snipes fielded questions about his interest, his strengths and weaknesses, and what sets him apart from other applicants.
He didn’t walk out of the interview with a job offer, but he did leave with perhaps something even more valuable — experience.
“I’m going to be more prepared (the next time I interview),” said Snipes. “This helped me see how to be prepared for an interview and the questions you have to answer, and learn to stay on track.”
Snipes, along with 106 other seniors from Greenville High School, was taking part in a mock interview organized by the Butler County Commission for Economic Development and the Butler County School System.
The students had the opportunity to answer interview questions from a number of local business professionals, and receive feedback on what they did well and what areas need to be improved.
Otis Grayson, Butler County Schools career coach, said Thursday was “the big day” for the students who have been learning about skills needed to land a job, such as preparing a résumé, properly filling out job applications, and dressing in a way that is appropriate for an interview.
“We’re trying to give them the soft skills they need to be able to go into an interview and come out with a job,” Grayson said.
The interviews were held Wednesday and Thursday at the Butler County Commission for Economic Development’s office.
Grayson said he believed having the interviews off campus and conducted by business professionals from the area provided an element of realism for the students.
“They’re getting to see what it’s really like,” he said. “They’ve practiced in class, and answered the same questions they’ve been asked today, but this is a more realistic setting, and it’s going to help them be prepared when the time comes to sit in a job interview and answer questions from a potential employer.”
Jacob Morgan, BCCED director of workforce development, helped conduct the interviews. He said he was impressed with the students’ performance and the impact the workforce development program has had thus far.
“I felt that the interview process had a very positive impact on our students,” he said. “I believe they learned about what it takes to be a professional. I think it challenged them not only to have good qualities on paper, but to live out those qualities in daily life. I know that in the future our employers here in Butler County will be able to see a difference in the interview process. These kids were already very impressive before they got to us. They just needed somebody to help push them a little higher up. That is what workforce development is all about — molding and shaping the tools people already possess.”
Butler County Schools Superintendent Amy Bryan said the mock interviews took the information the students have been learning in the classroom and brought it to life.
“The students didn’t just go through the motions of answering interview questions,” she said. “They were coached, prepped, and even dressed the part. I love that community members volunteered to interview our students so they had the experience of preparing for anticipated questions, handling their nervousness, shaking hands and making eye contact, and thinking on their feet. We certainly want to repeat and expand this opportunity for our students.”
Grayson believes these interviews also provide an opportunity for employers throughout the county.
“We’ve talked to employers in the area and we’ve heard that they aren’t able to find the quality of employees they need,” he said. “We’re trying to address that. We’re starting the eighth and ninth grade teaching our students the soft skills — how to dress, how to speak properly, punctuality — that they need to be a quality employee. At the same time, we’re trying to make sure they have the skills that industries in our area are looking for whether it’s on the academic side or the technical side.”
The Butler County Commission for Economic Development and the Butler County School System have received a $500,000 grant that will be used to create two career academies at Greenville High School.
The funds were made available due to a bill passed in 2013 aimed at preparing students to be productive members of the state’s workforce.
The 21st Century Workforce Act provides funds for local school systems to update their career and technical education programs. A total of $50 million has been allocated for the initiative.
According to Morgan, director of workforce development at the BCCED, $433,694 will be used to create the Industrial Maintenance Academy and $57,074 will be used to create the Health Science Academy.
The Industrial Maintenance Academy will focus on welding, while the Health Science Academy will have manikins that will allow students to practice the necessary skills to be a nurse.
“We want to make sure our students are getting everything they need to be successful,” Grayson said. “These interviews, the soft skills, the career academies and the academics they are getting in our school system will help prepare them to join the workforce and be productive citizens in our community.”