THREE MILE CURVE — Some exciting things are happening at the Ralph R. Willis Career and Technical Center, and the state of West Virginia is starting to notice. On Thursday, October 10, representatives from the West Virginia Department of Education visited the site to produce a promotional video featuring the school’s students and faculty.
What has sparked the interest? This year, Ralph R. Willis has enhanced its curriculum and changed its approach to learning by introducing a simulated workplace. In a simulated workplace, classrooms provide “an educational environment that emulates the future workplace.”
The program, envisioned by West Virginia Assistant State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathy D’Antoni, is based on the demands from research and industry reports. Studies indicate that while there are job opportunities for technicians in West Virginia, the difficulty is finding employees “who routinely show up for work, can pass a drug test, and possess a positive work ethic.” The simulated workplace is designed to help students be more prepared to enter the workplace upon graduation.
Students engaged in the simulated workplace at Ralph R. Willis are learning different aspects of businesses in addition to technical skills. In this approach, classrooms become companies that have an initial net worth, policies and procedures manuals, and different positions that must be filled. Students go through an application process to be “hired” for the different positions. Like a real work environment, they use time clocks to track attendance, must submit quarterly and annual reports, and undergo random employee drug testing. At the end of the year, students will able to create a professional portfolio to document credentials earned, projects completed, and their contribution to the company’s success.
“With this system, the students are more accountable for their performance,” says Jan Hanlon, Director of Secondary Education for Logan County Schools. “Our students are going to be more prepared to enter the workforce now. They will have a portfolio they can show future employers and be able to say, ‘I’ve held these positions, and I have these national certifications.’ They will understand how their job performance earns money, and they will know how much of an asset they are to a company.”
The promotional video will be showcased throughout West Virginia as a model for simulated workplace learning. Dr. D’Antoni said she was very impressed with what is happening at Ralph R. Willis Career and Technical Center. “What they are doing here is wonderful,” says D’Antoni. “This school should be an example for the whole state.”