Industries working with students can only be positive

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 27, 2018

I was a long-haired 11th grader in Carolyn Beaver’s journalism class at Davie High School when I decided that would be my career path. Journalism. Newspaper work.

I never got rich, but I don’t regret that decision.

And the 11th grade is not too early to begin thinking about a career choice. Heck, eighth grade isn’t too early, either, just don’t set anything into stone at that young of an age.

As editor of the student newspaper at Chowan College, I learned quickly that when you’re the editor of a newspaper at a Baptist college, it’s probably best not to criticize the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. But I did. My professor loved the editorial, but the college administration did not. Chowan had just started a newswriting and advertising two-year degree program, geared towards those of us who wanted to work at a community newspaper.

The only professor on the news side was a retired editor of a major daily newspaper in the Tidewater, Virginia, area. He didn’t last long at Chowan, either.

Then it was on to East Tennessee State University to study mass communications (journalism). I had a work study job on the student newspaper there, and yes, I thoroughly enraged the university president with an article. It was his fault for refusing to answer simple questions, but he didn’t see it that way.

To get a degree in journalism at East Tennessee, students had to complete a semester as an intern — at a newspaper, magazine, television station or other news outlet. It wasn’t a suggestion, it was a requirement. Get your own job or they would find one for you.

I worked for the Johnson City Press Chronicle for a few months, and received invaluable, real-world training there. I even wrote a couple of top stories for the Sunday edition.

That was the best requirement ever. I’ve seen too many students graduate from the University of North Carolina School of Journalism with no idea of what it is like in the real world. They could write, but were lost at a county commissioners meeting. They could write, but a deadline put them in a panic. They could write, but cringed when an editor made changes, whether for clarity or length.

I was lucky to know my career path early, and Davie County is on the right track in training our students for the workforce.

Terry Bralley and the Davie Economic Development Commission continue to amaze. Pretty much full on the employment scale, the director of economic development didn’t stop in his efforts to recruit new industry, or help local industries expand.

But he added staff to help keep more young people here.

Carolyn McManamy, former president of the Davie County Chamber of Commerce, is heading the project, and I’m sure she will do well. The idea is to get our students and teachers familiar with local industries, learning their needs, learning the skills they expect from employees. The hope is that teachers will teach more of these skills, and students will find something they’re interested in and stay in Davie after graduating from high school or college. It’s a great idea.

Sending their kids to college is every parent’s dream, but when the student graduates with no real-world job skills, that dream can turn into a nightmare — a financially crippling nightmare. It is not entirely the fault of the student and parents, many of whom believe that a college degree in itself is a path to career success. It is not. Blame some of the colleges that offer degrees that give the student little or no hope of finding a job.

Yes, I believe in a well-rounded education. College students should be exposed to all types of information, but there should be more of a focus on job skills.

Students, find a career choice that suits your desires, and learn the skills it takes to be successful in that career. Even if you change your mind later, those skills will be with you forever.

 Mike Barnhardt is editor of the Davie County Enterprise Record.