Port Allen High School students got an up-close look at Community Coffee Company’s manufacturing facility in West Baton Rouge, along with job skills training from company leaders, under an educational program designed to introduce students to career possibilities in business and industry.
The Get Hired, Stay Hired program is a seven-week work-readiness curriculum coordinated by Junior Achievement of Greater Baton Rouge & Acadiana, a nonprofit that seeks to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in the global economy. The program culminated in a job-shadowing day that allowed the students to tour Community Coffee’s Port Allen plant and learn more about careers in the coffee industry.
West Baton Rouge Superintendent Wesley Watts says the school system has put a special emphasis on introducing students to area businesses to give them a more complete understanding of the job opportunities available to them after graduation.
“As a school system we want to expose our kids to as many occupations as possible,” Watts says. “One of our philosophies is that we need to get kids actually into these businesses to see what they’re all about. We have great industrial and manufacturing businesses here, and a lot of our kids don’t know what they’re really like.”
Working with Students in the Classroom
Get Hired, Stay Hired began in the classroom, where employees of Community Coffee spent time working with students in the business and entrepreneurship classes at Port Allen High. Students learned interviewing skills and how to create a resume, while also honing their “soft skills” — positive personal attributes that enable employees to work better with other people in a workplace.
“The students and teachers learned so much about the employment process, including the importance of the skills needed to get hired, how to work effectively in teams and the importance of good soft skills,” says Jill Edwards, Port Allen High’s BCA/entrepreneurship teacher. “The Community Coffee team members worked well with our students. Our classes looked forward to seeing them each week. We really appreciate the time and attention that Community Coffee gave to our students, and look forward to working with them again in the future.”
A First-Hand Look at the Workplace
At the conclusion of the program, the students traveled to Community Coffee’s Port Allen facility to tour the plant and see first-hand how employees in numerous positions do their jobs.
Watts says these types of visits help demystify industrial workplaces for students who have few opportunities to encounter such settings in their day-to-day lives. He says some students take notice of the automation and the technology in plants like Community’s and come away with a fresh understanding of what an industrial job entails.
“I think it really gives them an impetus to focus harder on some other things, like how valuable being tech-savvy is and how much these jobs are really about people,” Watts says.
During their visit the Port Allen students toured areas where green coffee is processed and prepared for roasting. They also saw each step in the manufacturing process, including roasting and grinding machines. Mark Howell, Community’s general manager for green coffee and tea, offered the students a lesson on the complicated origins of coffee, along with the harvesting and manufacturing of the product.
“It was really great to be able to share some of our knowledge,” Howell says.
JA Communications Director Jennifer Scripps says the organization sees a disconnect between students and industry, with many young people in the dark about the possibilities of industrial careers. She says working with business leaders and visiting industrial sites can open up new career possibilities for high-school students.
“We’re really trying to make that real-life connection,” Scripps says. “It’s really an eye-opening experience for the students.”