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Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2018 12:00 am

Walton County’s public schools have demonstrated an increasing ability to teach reading, ’riting and ’rithmatic with the best of them, as demonstrated by rising test scores across the board.

But getting students ready for the workplace is more than just telling how to conjugate a verb or when to carry the remainder. It’s about instilling important habits in industry’s future workforce: responsibility, punctuality, reliability, creative thinking and other skills that aren’t found in a textbook or on the test sheet.

That’s where Walton Works comes in.

“The Development Authority of Walton County recognizes the workforce challenges in our community and has partnered with our school systems, local industries, Athens Technical College, Communities In Schools and other organizations to strengthen our local workforce through an initiative called Walton Works,” Dessa Morris, with DAWC, said. “The Development Authority of Walton County and Communities In Schools partnered to bring employability skills training to local high schools in November. This is part of a year-long series of activities happening in high schools as part of our Walton Works initiative.”

Beginning this month, business leaders and industry officials in the area began visiting local high schools to share their experience and knowledge with students at all four public high schools in Walton County.

“More than 2,000 students heard about local career opportunities with area industries as well as our message of strengthening student’s career options by making good decisions and improving employability skills,” Morris said.

Companies involved in the event included Hitachi Automotive, McLane Company Inc., Leggett & Platt, Masterack, IMMEC and Shire. These and other companies sent managers and employees to discuss needed business skills in sessions with students, which included activities and demonstrations as well as lectures.

  “Leadership Walton alumni joined the efforts with business owners, city officials, realtors, and retirees spending the day investing in our students,” Morris said.

Jocelyn Wykoff, with Athens Orthopedic Clinic, was one such business leader who spoke with students at Social Circle High School and she said she was pleased to see the impact the information had on some students.

“One person in my first session didn’t speak at all,” Wykoff said. “But she was back in my third class and she was very talkative and engaged. Seeing that transition was great.”

Tim Armstrong, principal at SCHS, said he was glad the industry leaders could come and tell the students information they greatly needed to know.

“We’re saying this over and over again,” Armstrong said. “But sometimes you have to hear it from someone else to really take it seriously. I am so grateful they are here to tell the students what they need to hear.”

The volunteers said they were, in turn, surprised by the basic ideas that some students didn’t seem to have already absorbed, such as the importance of basic punctuality.

“These kids don’t associate being tardy to class with being late,” Adrianne Flournoy, with Hitachi, said. “They would say they are on time to everything and then admit they have half a dozen tardies this semester. Hopefully these things we’re telling them will settle in and make a difference.”

Charles Lollar, senior vice president of operations for McLane Company, said the kids also needed to focus now on what success means to them.

“Do you measure success by dollars and cents or do you measure success by fulfilling your purpose?” he said to students in the introductory session at each school. “You’re going to fail sometimes. But you’re going to get back up.”

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