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Navigating COVID to provide virtual career connections 

SALISBURY — Connecting students to business and industry is a natural proponent of hands-on learning that is face-to-face, generally intimate, and aligns to their interests and passions. We coin these meaningful student connections as work-based learning. Work-based learning experiences such as internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, service learning, field trips, and guest speakers came to a halt due to COVID-19. Rowan-Salisbury Schools-Career and Technical Education made the choice to pivot and turn to many virtual options while the traditional options remain limited, at best, or restricted, at worst.

One of the many, new career initiatives provided for students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is the RSS-CTE Work-based Learning Wednesday Webinar Series.  This virtual series inspires students by extending a bridge of the career possibilities that await them beyond high school and provides a road map, with many entry and exit points, on how to best get there. RSS-CTE Work-Based Wednesday Webinars are virtual pathways to community and industry partners for students to build professional networks and enhance their employability skills. 

Navigating COVID led RSS to select Wednesdays as the completely remote e-learning day for all students and most staff.  RSS-CTE decided to optimize on this solely remote e-learning day by offering students employability lessons and industry connections. Some Wednesday webinars even cater to a parental audience. The career-oriented webinars focus on highlighting each of the 16 North Carolina CTE Career Clusters. Each week the webinar highlights a different career cluster with panelists who offer advice to students about the required skills and education, paid salary, benefits, and a ‘day in the life’ of that career.  Other areas of the webinars focus are on employability skills such as resume writing, interview tips, goal setting, dressing for success, finding your passions, communication etiquette, and much more. Promotional efforts extend across and beyond Rowan County wherein viewers are encouraged to ask questions and pose comments.

For viewing guests who do not have social media accounts or Internet access, a Work-based Wednesday Webinar website was created that houses all the recorded videos. The videos can be downloaded and shared with others. The goal is to provide career connections for all students. 

Furthermore, students can connect with a positive adult who provides thought provoking content about tips and tools on how to ensure a successful future. All students benefit, especially students of poverty who are not always gifted with this type of rhetoric in the home or by those who heavily influence them. Ultimately, RSS-CTE wants students to feel free to dream, explore and find their unique purpose in life.

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