Usually when Northside Hospital-Forsyth hosts a group of visitors from a school, they are students trying to get a feel for what life as a surgeon or neurologist would be like — a way for the students to gain hands-on, industry experience in the hopes of shaping their future plans.
On Tuesday, however, the student-teacher experience was reversed for about 135 Forsyth Central High School educators, who donned blue scrubs and red surgeon’s caps during the hospital tour.
At other locations, the teachers wore headsets to simulate the job of a 911 dispatcher or covered their eyes with safety glasses as S & S Technical workers demonstrated the firm’s various gas and fluid handling solutions.
Tuesday’s day-long experience, called Project Next, was the Forsyth County Schools’ inaugural industry-teacher collaboration program, bringing Central staff and local businesses together in a unique way, according to Mitch Young, Central’s principal.
“We can talk about all of these [trade] skills and that’s fine, but we really wanted all of our teachers to have a visual, real-world experience of what the various Forsyth [industries] are doing on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “[Tuesday’s] tours were [designed] so they can see what the skills they teach our kids look like when students go out into the world.
“At Central, we want to lead our students to be healthy and productive American citizens who will solve problems, communicate effectively and serve selflessly, and to do that, our teachers need to know what the industry needs.”
Participating businesses included Northside, the Forsyth County 911 Center, Scientific Games, Hansgrohe — a plumbing supply store — and others.
Young said the idea for Project Next first came about several years ago during his time at Leadership Forsyth.
The adult program, which lasts a year, offers professionals experiential learning “through a community-based experience that increases all participants’ knowledge of local institutions and [includes] involvement with community leaders, volunteers and resource,” its website says.
Each month, program participants toured a different business sector, which Young said was eye-opening.
“Going through [those tours], I kept thinking if as a principal I don’t even know about the range of [job] possibilities, a lot of our teachers probably don’t know about them either,” he said. “I really wanted to bring this to them, and on a trip to Nashville in late March, that’s where everything crystalized.”
Young said the trip, which included Forsyth County principals, Board of Education members and the superintendent, showed him and other Forsyth educators just how successful a business partnership within schools could be.
That’s when he said he knew what he could offer Central’s teachers.
“I talked to [College and Career Development Director] Valery Lowe, and she took that brainchild idea and made it come to life,” Young said, “and it absolutely exceeded our expectations. I think the teachers were blown away at all the different job opportunities — both high-level and blue-collar — just within the boundaries of this county. They asked great questions, and the conversations just reaffirmed we’re doing the right work at our school.”
Young said the businesses also benefitted from the experience by being able to tell teachers exactly what kind of graduate they are looking for.
“The common thread was they need folks with a good work ethic, a great attitude and who problem solve and communicate,” he said. “We talk about that all the time in our school, so their conversations made it clear how important it is for teachers to connect their class relevantly to the real world and reinforced that what [the educators] are teaching our students is important.
“I think in upcoming years we’ll have a lot more cross-curricular involvement to create projects on the types of things they heard [Tuesday].”