BUCKHANNON — Students at Fred W. Eberle Technical Center apply for positions, punch a time clock and name and operate their own companies — all within the school’s campus.
The simulated workplace has changed how Fred Eberle and other career and technical centers approach learning, according to director Dr. Michael Cutright at Tuesday’s Buckhannon Rotary Club meeting.
“For years, people from industry have told us three things: Send us people who will show up to work every day, who can pass a drug test and who will work while they are there,” he said. “Send them with some basic skills, but we can teach them what they need to know as long as they show up with these three things.”
The state department of education listened to those concerns and initiated the simulated workplace concept which was piloted in several schools.
“Now every CTE program in the state follows the guidelines of a simulated workplace,” Cutright said.
Some career and technical programs at Buckhannon-Upshur High School also follow the simulated workplace guidelines.
“First, we get the students involved in their education,” he said. “It’s student-led, and each program is run as a company. They name the company and have meetings.
“They are in charge. It gives them some ownership in how things are run. One thing the teachers like is that there is an application and an interview process for our students. They fill out an application and our teachers go to the different schools and interview them.”
“We are a public school,” he added. “We can’t turn students away, but where this helps is we can match students to the programs they really want to be in. We have a few programs that are overloaded, and this kind of helps us sort the students who really want to be there.”
Once students are in the program, the workplace simulation continues.
“There is a formal attendance system with this program,” he said. “Our students actually punch a time clock every day when they come in. If they are not going to be there, they are supposed to call the teachers and let them know and they should have a good reason.”
“We do random drug testing on our students,” Cutright said. “The state provides us so far with grant money to do the random drug testing and it works. We don’t get that many positive tests, but we have gotten a few.”
Students are not removed from the program for testing positive.
“We help them get counseling, work with them and test them again in a couple weeks,” he said. “They have to eventually have a negative test to be able to work in the shops, so it’s a good thing.”
Simulated workplaces stress safe, clean environments that help students develop good habits for on the job.
“If you come in our shop, you are going to see lines painted on the floor,” he said. “You will be greeted by a student who offers you a pair of safety glasses. We stress safety all the time. We have always done that, but there is a formal system in place now.”
“The students work in teams,” Cutright added. “If you walk in the shops you are going to see an organization chart. Each program has different jobs that have been assigned to the students. You will see a foreman or manager, a safety manager, a 5S manager — it gives the students ownership.”
The 5S manager oversees the 5S steps which stand for sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain to create a culture of organized and clean shops.
Grant funding even provided uniforms which the students wear on selected days.
“I meet with these foreman and managers once a month,” Cutright said. “They come up to my office and tell me what is going on in their program area or company. It has helped them come out of their shell a lot. They have company meetings weekly to discuss safety and other issues that we talked about. Another good aspect of simulated work place is we actually have on-site business reviews.”
“We had people from the industries come in and inspect,” Cutright continued. “They were impressed by how much we have improved from last year to this year. The biggest improvement I have seen is our students who have come out of their shells. They come up and talk to you. They are proud of their companies and they like to tell you what they are doing.”
The students also have portfolios and assessments within the simulated workplace.
“I think all of these things have been positive and I have seen good results so far,” Cutright said.