By Nicole Minier
COLUMBIA CITY — What makes a good employee?
Scholars and business leaders came together last week for a Whitley Works luncheon to discuss a potential partnership between schools and businesses — a certification that gives students the opportunity to prove their worth as an employee.
While letter grades are important in proving intelligence, a work ethic certification would show the student’s character, which many argue is equally, if not more, important.
Whitley Works’ Talent Development Director Lori Heuer, in partnership with local school districts and the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce, hosted Andrew Melvin, superintendent of the Greater Clark Community School Corp.
Clark County schools has implemented a successful “PRIDE” program, a joined effort of businesses and schools to encourage character growth.
PRIDE stands for persistence, respectfulness, initiative, dependability and efficiency.
The program is becoming popular in many other school districts across the state, and a similar program could be formed in Whitley County.
Smith-Green Community Schools administrators are considering a partnership with Whitley Works, but nothing is official at this time.
“I am not certain what our involvement will be,” said SGCS Superintendent Dan Hile. “I am very interested in learning more about the program and determining if it will be the right fit for our students and business community. I want to make sure it is the right match for us.”
Melin said the focus should be all on academics.
“If we don’t have a community full of pride and character, it doesn’t matter how smart we are,” Melin said. “I would rather be part of an organization full of people with good character.”
Students are assessed in each area of the PRIDE program:Persistence: student completes the task at hand regardless of the obstacles that occur. For example, students need minimal supervision, consistently completes assignments, willingness to re-work when necessary, maximizes available resources.
Respectfulness: student demonstrates and promotes a spirit of cooperation within and outside the classroom. For example, a the student interacts effectively with others, offers assistance to peers, completes a minimum of six hours of community service during the school year and communicates clearly, appropriately and in a professional manner.
Initiative: student is a self-starter and problem solver. For example, students are quick to assume a task and remain on task, show leadership and work independently.
Dependability: student demonstrates academic readiness, is reliable and demonstrates responsibility. Students must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher, 98-percent attendance rate, fewer than four tardies or sign-in/sign-outs during the school year and have one or fewer discipline referrals during the school year.
Efficiency: student is organized, punctual and demonstrates self-management. Students uses instructional time efficiently, manages time wisely and demonstrates organization.
The Eagle’s Nest Event Center was full of teachers, business leaders and school administrators last Tuesday, who discussed these topics and how a program could be implemented in Whitley County.
In exchange for having a PRIDE certificate, businesses could offer a variety of incentives, such as a guaranteed job interview, applicant pool preference, increase in base pay, waiving college classes, professional mentoring opportunities, professional seminars, bonus vacation days, a sign-on bonus, tuition reimbursement, health club memberships and flexible scheduling.
Whitley Works hosted an inaugural summit in the spring, in which attendees discussed what they think is important in a quality employee — accountability, leadership/professionalism, problem solving/critical thinking, teamwork, personal growth and communication.
Businesses and schools have already started working together, and the PRIDE program looks to take that one step further. Many businesses have opened their doors to tours for students, several have given presentations for career fairs, many offer internship programs and allow for job shadowing.
In Clark County, school administrators work together with entities such as the Chamber of Commerce to organize and focus conversations — allowing both businesses and schools to help each other meet their needs.
Melin says the PRIDE program has been transformational to his community.
“We took these characteristics for granted and we can’t shy away from it anymore,” Melin said. “We need to focus on character development so we have a society filled with character.”
Melin said Whitley County is “off to a great start,” and offered to help as Whitley Works considers its own PRIDE program.