Schools opened their doors to business reps during Companies in the Classroom  

Sixteen districts across five counties became hosts last month for Companies in the Classroom, an event that gave representatives from nearly 40 regional businesses and eight post-secondary institutions a close-up look at learning in 2020.

After shadowing a student at Quaker Valley Middle School, Covestro Quality Analyst Pam Rozman said the most striking thing about the experience was “the collaboration that happens in the classroom setting.”

“The learning was very interactive, and that was refreshing,” Rozman added during a debriefing that Principal Anthony Mooney held with visitors and students.

At Covestro and many other companies, the kind of collaboration skills she witnessed are an every-day part of the workplace and prerequisite for hiring.

Visitors and educators at some other host sites also remarked on aspects of the day’s learning experience that are particularly valuable in acquainting students with workplace practices.

At Shaler Middle School, for example, participants in a debriefing session discussed the need for students to learn to work together via teleconferences, using Skype or other platforms, particularly if they plan careers with global organizations.

Business guests from PNC Financial Group, Koppers and CGI also shared thoughts on other technologies, including their companies’ insistence that employees use the Microsoft suite of applications for word processing, spreadsheets, and other office needs. Mention of the requirement often takes educators by surprise because so many schools rely on Google Classroom and its set of office tools.

That was exactly the kind of interaction Companies in the Classroom was designed to spark. The event began taking shape last spring when The Grable Foundation organized CEO in the Classroom, an experience that brought industry leaders into schools to shadow students. Companies in the Classroom expanded on it to give more representatives from the business sector and post-secondary institutions an opportunity to visit middle or high schools, shadow students, and find out about their educational experiences and the learning opportunities available to them.

The initiative also was designed to lay groundwork for future partnerships to enhance students’ career learning experiences. Partnerships can take many forms, from classroom visits and lunch-and-learns to job shadows, internships, and more.

Along with Quaker Valley and Shaler Area, districts participating included: Burrell, Connellsville Area, Deer Lakes, Freeport Area, Greensburg-Salem, Hopewell Area, Jeannette City, Laurel Highlands, McKeesport Area, Northgate, Penn Hills, Ringgold, Washington, and Yough.

The Consortium worked with Intermediate Unit 1, Westmoreland County Forum for Workforce Development, and Quaker Valley School District to organize the event.