Deficiency in job skills was identified as a major problem for industry in a survey last summer of area plant managers and human resources directors.
The survey respondents said both hard skills, ranging from the ability to work certain machinery to aptitude in technology and math, and soft skills, including work ethic, punctuality and attitude, were lacking.
Last Monday, the people who participated in the exchange program came together and made the following recommendations:
* The chamber, schools, business and industry should create a "clearinghouse" where the employment and skill needs of local businesses and industries are posted and the curriculum of local public schools, technical schools, Bluegrass Community and Technical College, National College and other schools that match those needs is listed.
* The schools should create within their existing curriculum a "work force" major and include courses that would directly address the job skill needs of local business and industry.
* The schools should create a "work ethic" course or major. When a student successfully completes the class or classes, a "worth ethic seal" will be stamped on his or her diploma and a certificate awarded to the graduate.
* The business and industry plant managers and human resources directors should work with school principals and counselors in creating more shadowing, mentoring and internship programs.
* Human resources directors should organize a job fair to be held at least annually and should periodically visit schools to inform teachers and students of the kinds of jobs that are available and the kinds of skills needed for those jobs.
* The schools and businesses and industries should create a "Junior Achievement-like" program under which human resources directors would go into the schools and teach students how to apply and interview for jobs.
In addition, the HR directors should teach students soft skills.
* The schools and businesses and industries should create a poster that shows students the courses that the schools offer that match the skills that business and industry need. The posters would be displayed at both middle schools and high schools and be updated when necessary.
* School committees that decide curriculum should ask human resource directors to make specific recommendations as to how courses can better match job skill needs.
At the end of the meeting, Rinehart and Pass asked participants in the exchange program to evaluate the program.
Though it will be a while before the questionnaire results will be known, it appeared that participants want the exchange program - either one like the program that was just completed or one that will include more sectors of business and industry such as utilities, services and small businesses - to be continued.
"It was a very good learning experience," said Bate Middle School counselor Cecile Napier.
"I think we and the business people learned a lot about what each of us does and what we need to do together to improve job skills and match curriculum to skills.
"And, most important, I believe we now at least are communicating about the very important issue of doing the best we can to prepare our young people for the real world."