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October 18, 2023

Workplace tours, tech school partnerships build career awareness

Research shows that members of Gen Z (those born between 1996 and 2010) want to learn skills that will lead them directly into the workforce, with many opting for technical school certifications rather than a four-year degree that often comes with large student loan debt.

More than 75 percent of high schoolers now say that a two-year or technical certification is enough, with only 41 percent believing they need a four-year degree to get a good job.

Community college enrollment grew slightly this spring – up 22,000 students from spring of last year, with a growing number of dual enrolled high school students and freshmen contributing to the increase, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Trade school graduates and students exploring career options through college and career academies are a great recruitment resource. That’s why Carolina Handling partners with community colleges, technical schools and other work-based learning programs to raise awareness about jobs in material handling.

Carolina Handling has helped advance the work of technical colleges across the Southeast with donations of forklifts and other equipment. And at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina, we’ve partnered with five other equipment dealers to offer a new Forklift Diploma Program that began this fall.

The new one-year program pairs students with a sponsoring dealer to prepare them to be technicians specializing in the maintenance and repair of lift trucks. Students attend classes on Monday and Tuesday at Wake Tech and work the remainder of the week at the sponsor’s dealership earning work-based learning credits and an hourly wage. Upon graduation, students are eligible for tuition and textbook reimbursement and if all goes according to plan, a full-time job.

To reach high school juniors and seniors who are exploring job opportunities, Carolina Handling also is working with college and career academies to host facility tours that educate students about the material handling industry and give them a first-hand look at available jobs at Carolina Handling.

During the most recent tour, 45 students from Fulton County Schools’ College & Career Academy visited our new facility in Fairburn, Georgia where they talked with Carolina Handling associates working in the areas of forklift maintenance and repair, battery maintenance, welding, painting, distribution and logistics.

They also tried their hands at operating a forklift using a forklift virtual reality simulator, spoke with a Carolina Handling field service technician and observed his traveling office in the form of a Carolina Handling service van.

Workplace tours illustrate how academic concepts are applied in the real world, allowing students to see work in progress and giving them the chance to ask questions.

And they do.

After the recent student tour, a team leader in the Fairburn shop remarked, “I enjoyed the randomness of the questions. One group was interested in how much I make, and another was interested in the different welding processes. This group of kids will be great and seem to have the direction in life that they want to pursue.”

Another Carolina Handling associate added, “I really enjoyed seeing how engaged the students were and the great questions they asked. I love it that we partner with our communities to form these connections that are helping shape the future.”

Student tours and tech school partnerships build career awareness by highlighting jobs that most students have never thought about, or even know about. While students have heard of many of our customers, they know little to nothing about our brand as a B2B provider operating behind the scenes.

Pulling back the curtain to reveal good-paying jobs in material handling is a goal of the forklift diploma program at Wake Tech, says Paige Kearns, professor and program director of Heavy Equipment & Transport Technology.

“For a technician, the material handling industry is just not known,” Kearns said. “People see the service vehicles driving around but I just don’t think they put two and two together. I would like Wake Tech’s program to be a model for programs like this at other schools. There’s no education that will better prepare a student for a career than if they’re going to school and working with their future employer. Their career has been mapped out and they’re ready to go on day one when they graduate and go full time.”