Chamber Adds Facility Tours to Career Readiness Repertoire

By Amanda Ellis

“When I began working with the Chamber’s workforce readiness programs, I realized many local students hadn’t seen anything farther away than two to three blocks from home,” says Darian Scott, Outreach Coordinator at the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce.

Scott says he began wondering: how can we expect students to make strong career decisions when they haven’t been exposed to the paths available for their futures? Others shared his concern, and that led to the launch of the Chamber’s Workforce Pipeline Facility Tours for high school students.

EPB hosted the first tour and soon other companies wanted to participate too.

“By offering facility tours, companies not only support young people in the community to achieve, they also build their own workforce pipeline by exposing students to opportunities with their companies,” Scott says.

EPB, Roadtec and Gestamp have led facility tours for juniors and seniors from Central, Tyner and Brainerd High Schools, and most recently, students in the YMCA Youth Leadership Chattanooga program.

Gestamp offers its own work-based learning program in addition to hosting its first facility tour in March for students of the Youth Leadership program. Mandy Lusk, Gestamp’s Coordinator of Work-Based Learning, says students are surprised by the range of jobs available aside from those on the plant floor – accounting, engineering, shipping and receiving and more.

“We start in the training room, go over safety rules, show a video about what we do,” Lusk says. “Then we take them out on the plant floor with safety glasses and ear plugs, and they tour the whole facility to watch students and regular employees working.”

The students Gestamp employs are high school juniors and seniors who participate in Gestamp’s work-based learning program. They’re paid hourly to work part of the day and also attend school in Gestamp’s Learning Lab to complete coursework to graduate from their high school.

“There’s a stigma that young people don’t know what hard work is, that they don’t have soft skills,” Lusk says. “We teach them about being on time, working as a team, communication skills, so that when they graduate from high school, they’ll be prepared for a career with Gestamp or another company. Our workforce development efforts help build a labor pool for the community.”

If your company is interested in hosting a Workforce Pipeline Facility Tour, contact Darian Scott at dscott@chattanoogachamber.com. Programs like these contribute to shared education goals in our community, like Chattanooga 2.0’s strategies to reimagine learning for the 21st century and prep students to make smart college and career decisions.

Find more information about Gestamp’s work-based learning program for high school juniors and seniors here.