Just what it is “an education consultant” does all day isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to explain to an 8th grade student.
But when Janetta Nelson and a dozen of her classmates from the Walter G. Byers Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina, came to visit Public Consulting Group’s (PCG) office there recently, Janetta quickly figured it out.
“They help kids,’’ Janetta explained after spending a day at PCG as part of the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE) Students@Work initiative. “They help solve problems with the schools, and they show the people in Raleigh who make the tests how to review the data,” Janetta added.
PCG was one of 45 companies and organizations across North Carolina participating in late March in Students@Work, a job-shadowing and mentoring effort established by the governor in 2011. Coordinated closely with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Students@Work has brought more than 128,000 eight-grade students from across the Tarheel State into a broad range of workplaces.
The overarching goal is to get middle school thinking concretely about career pathway options, understanding what kinds of jobs they could well be doing in five or ten years, and reinforcing the relevance of their classroom learning in middle and high school to their future working lives. For many students, including several of PCG’s guests from the Byers Middle School, Students@Work is their first extended exposure to a professional office environment.
“I’m surprised it’s a workplace – I thought it was a hotel!” Antonio Blue said with a big smile after his visit to PCG.
Shakyra Morrison said she was fascinated to hear about all the different colleges that PCG’s education consultants and staff had attended, and “listening to what everybody enjoyed doing for a living.’’
“The most interesting thing I learned today,’’ added Tien Nguyen, “is that consultants come in many varieties and do many specific jobs.’’
PCG professionals led the Byers School students through exercises on how to make the best first impression at a job interview or other professional encounter (firm handshake, eye contact, bright smile, state your name clearly). The students engaged in a mock marketing competition developing ideas and an “elevator pitch” for various services.
Beth Burris, a PCG Senior Project Manager, said, “I think that one key takeaway from the day for the students was a sense of confidence: Confidence in their ability to interact not only with each other in a professional way, but with adults. Giving students at that age the opportunity to see how an office environment functions, how people interact professionally, how first impressions are critical – these are all wonderful lessons that they can use going forward.’’
“I was impressed with how engaged the students were and how eager they were to apply what they learned,’’ added Cindy Orner, a PCG Senior Client Service Associate. “Interacting with students is always helpful for me. It reminds me of how bright our young people are and how important it is in the Education practice area that we help our student population have the best experiences possible in school.”
PCG defines its goals as helping schools, school districts, and state education agencies identify and implement ways to improve programs and processes, optimize financial resources, and promote student success. A key part of that is PCG technology and data-analysis solutions that help school leaders make the best instructional decisions.
At PCG in Charlotte, Students@Work was a chance for students to get to know and learn from, and about, some of the professionals at work behind the scenes supporting their teachers, principals, and superintendents in creating those “best experiences possible in school.”
At the same time, it created renewed appreciation among PCG professionals for the students they’re working to serve every day. “I think I enjoyed being around their lively spirits just as much as they enjoyed being in the office,” said PCG’s Sherry Cain.
Eighth grader Shane Jackson told Sherry and her colleagues as the group prepared to head back to the Byers School: “What surprised me today was how entertained I was. I enjoyed myself. So, thank you very much!”