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  • Writer's pictureCameron Cochran

Learning on the Job: Program Helps Wilson County Students Gain Practical Experience

Posted June 8, 2017

By Drew C. Wilson, Wilson Daily Times Staff Writer

Brett Honeycutt knows he wants to be an auto mechanic, so a new work-based learning program in Wilson is giving him practical experience that will help him achieve that goal.

Honeycutt, a junior at Beddingfield High School, has been participating in an afterschool internship at Vester Toyota in Wilson.

“I love it,” Honeycutt said. “I’m glad that my school was able to get me out here and the Toyota dealership was willing enough to let me come out here and let me have the opportunity to get some hands-on experience doing something that I pretty much want to do the rest of my life.”

The program to put students in the workplace is a collaborative effort between Wilson 20/20, Wilson County Schools, Wilson Community College and the Wilson Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m not the look-and-write kind of learner,” Honeycutt said. “I have to do it to learn it. I’m the type that if I don’t do it, I lose it.”

Honeycutt spends afternoons after school in the service department of the dealership working with mechanic Jonathan Lamm.

“I have been learning how to change oil, rotate tires, what they call a 12-point inspection, tread depth of the tires, air pressure, thickness of the brake pads, wiper fluid, all that kind of stuff,” Honeycutt said.

Honeycutt is not paid, however, his participation in the program has led to a full-time job at the dealership for the summer.

He will be working in the quick lube department helping the technicians when they get backed up. If they need help changing oil or rotating tires he will be able to do that and occasionally work with the actual mechanics whenever they need help.

“We encourage kids today to come out and learn and try to decide as early as they can what they want to do in life and to give them an opportunity to come straight out of school like he is. I think it is a perfect way to give them a head start,” said Danny Meacomes, service manager at the dealership. “You learn a lot from a book, obviously, but there is nothing better than hands-on and being able to put your eyes and your hands on what you are working on and learning straight from a professional that we have here.”

Meacomes said offering Honeycutt and other students opportunities for practical experience is very valuable.

“We are planning on working this guy over the summer and then seeing how he does in the co-op program next year and hopefully after school having him full-time if everything works well,” Meacomes said. “I think he’s great. I think the program is great and we heavily encourage everybody to do it.”

Cecilia Sanchez, a senior at Fike High School, has been interning at the civil engineering firm of Herring-Sutton & Associates in Wilson.

Sanchez has been shadowing Bobby Manning, a computer-aided design technician and planner with the firm.

“He is showing me how to work the AutoCAD system that most engineers use to draft out maps and stuff,” Sanchez said. “When I first started here I didn’t know much, but now that he gave me a little more projects and pretty much let me be on my own for a little bit, I have been improving my skills because pretty much the main reason why I am here is to improve my skills on AutoCAD, the system that all of the planners use.”

Last week, Sanchez was taking information from a 1989 map, removing unnecessary surveyor notes and making a clean new digital version of the data.

“I feel like she has been learning different ways to map different drawings, spending time learning the software, helping the surveyors coming in,” said Manning. “Right now we are working on boundary maps and what we consider as-built drawings. Moving forward, we are hoping to be able to teach her topographical surveys and things of that nature.”

“I am really interested in engineering,” Sanchez said. “This is civil engineering. That really wasn’t one of my options but it’s actually really nice now that I’m getting more hands-on stuff with it. My first choice was architecture and interior design.”

Sanchez plans to attend Wake Technical Community College in the fall to study engineering.

Like Honeycutt, Sanchez hopes to turn her internship into summer employment at the firm.

“It’s great,” Sanchez said. “I have never had this opportunity given to me before. It has really given me an idea of what the career workforce is like. It’s very professional and my mentor is very detail-oriented and all of my work has to be perfect, so I am really gaining a lot of skills, career-wise.”

Manning said he wished he had taken advantage of an offer to have similar on-the-job experience when he was younger.

“I did have an opportunity to do it,” Manning said. “I did not take advantage of it.”

Manning said it is worthwhile for the firm to invest a little bit of time developing the skills of students like Sanchez.

“It’s important to really develop young talent that shows the interest in this industry and really helping them to grow in that area,” Manning said.

Paula Benson, executive director of Wilson 20/20 Community Vision, said team members of the Transition to Workforce Team of the Youth Master Plan identified a real opportunity to expand relationships with local business partners and Wilson County Schools and the partnerships continue to grow.

“Our students are excited to have work-based learning experiences to help guide their decisions for appropriate high school courses, college selections and even career tracks,” Benson said. “We see the benefits clearly identified for the students as well as for the businesses, and we hope to continue building on the success of these partnerships.”

“We are especially grateful for the cooperation and willingness of local community partners in providing these work-based learning opportunities for our students,” said Jimmie Lucas, the work-based learning coordinator for Wilson County Schools.

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