The Education Alliance hosts EDTalk on how pandemic shaped future of career readiness

BUFFALO, W.Va.The Education Alliance‘s regional EDTalk events across West Virginia continued this week with a look at how the COVID-19 pandemic shaped the future of career readiness and the WV Ready Internship program.

Srini Matam, President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing WV, Inc and Amanda McDaniel, Co-Owner of Shenandoah Planing Mills, both of whose companies led internships in the program, rounded out the business panel of the event broadcast on Zoom.

McDaniel, who leads the family-owned and operated business for hardwood products in Jefferson County, said her internship students responded well during the pandemic while working on Zoom.

“I was impressed with their mature responses, I was impressed with their critical thinking. That made it very enjoyable for me, just as a presenter to be able to have that dialogue going on,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said she recorded some of her training models so students could access them anytime during the pandemic. It was Shenandoah Planing Mills’ first year in the program.

She believes she introduced students to the fun atmosphere of working in a trade.

“It’s a lot more relaxed atmosphere. It’s a hands-on atmosphere that can be a lot more satisfying. We just want people to know, kids to know that this is an available option for you. There is money, there is job security,” McDaniel said.

Matam spoke about his students’ capstone projects. For their capstone projects, students learned about the Toyota assembly line process and created a mock assembly line of a mask build using Toyota techniques and graphs, a release said.

Srini Matam (Photo/Toyota WV)

The students showcased not only the technical and manufacturing skills needed, but also practical life skills like teamwork, professionalism, and work ethic that they cultivated during their internship, he said.

He said he was amazed by how students grasped the situation with COVID-19 and how his team adjusted.

“My team had good meetings internally. It was challenging sometimes on how to communicate. We have a certain way of doing things and we didn’t want to teach them incorrectly. With a lot of training material and having a virtual experience, I think it worked out well for the students.”

Other speakers during the talk included Shawn Hawkins, the principal of Independence High School in Raleigh County, Denise Brindley, the Career and Work Skills Coordinator at Capital High School in Kanawha County and Michael Huffman, Career and Work Skills Coordinator at Herbert Hoover High School in Kanawha County in the Education Panel.

The Student Intern Panel were students from Herbert Hoover High School and Capital High School.

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