In the coming weeks and months, dozens of Great Bend High School students will be visiting businesses and learning employability skills. Some of them may discover a career they want to pursue after graduation. Some may decide to go into business for themselves.
The students are enrolled in a multi-year program called JAG-K – which stands for Jobs for America’s Graduates (Kansas). The classes are offered to students in grades 7-12 and taught by JAG-K career specialists such as Jeff Johnson and Teresa Laraby at GBHS.
Instead of a textbook, students are engaged in project-based learning, or PBL, Johnson said. During the year, they will visit local businesses to learn what a successful business looks like. They will also learn employability skills, including public speaking.
This year, the students will participate in Barton County’s Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, hosted by Great Bend Economic Development and the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce.
“It will be the first year that JAG has been a partner,” Johnson said. “The vision is that some kids will go out and start their own businesses in the community.”
He himself has been involved in seven business startups, the first when he worked with his father, an auctioneer. They bought wholesale tools to sell at the auctions along with consignments.
The students can learn who to start a business and how to promote it, but not every student will choose that path. Some may become skilled workers in trades and others may go on to college.
“The main thing is to get a career after graduation,” Johnson said. “I really try to expose them to all of that.”
Class activities also include community service. This month, JAG students will visit classes at Park Elementary School and listen to younger children read. They will also do some cleanup work at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo.
“We have several activities coming up in October,” Laraby said. The president, vice president and secretary from both her group and Johnson’s will attend a Leadership Development Conference on Oct. 11 at Kansas State University. On Oct. 18, GBHS JAG will have an Installation and Initiation (I & I) ceremony to welcome the students to the JAG career association and formally install the president, vice president, and secretary positions. “All students, family, and community members will be welcome to join us in celebrating our students.”
On Oct. 25, all JAG students will attend the ESSDACK Career Expo at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.
There are 37 employability competencies that JAG teaches, Johnson said. They are grouped into six clusters:
• Career development competencies – One is to identify occupational interests, aptitudes and abilities
• Job attainment competencies – These include constructing a resume and conducting a job search
• Job survival competencies – Such as demonstrating appropriate appearance and demonstrating time management
• Basic skills competencies – These include verbal and written communication skills and the ability to perform mathematical calculations
• Leadership and self-development competencies – Such as delivering presentations to a group and demonstrating commitment to an organization
• Personal skills competencies – As the students learn types of maturity and identify self-value systems, they will demonstrate a positive attitude and develop a healthy self-concept for home, school and work.
Those who successfully stay in the program for all four years of high school will have mastered all 37 core competencies by the end of their senior year, Johnson said.