MARYSVILLE — Monique Edwards wants high school students who might have ruled out higher education to know that it can still be part of their future.
“We do outreach to kids who have heard that it’s too expensive, or who come from families where no one has gone to college, and we let them know they absolutely can,” said Edwards, supervisor of the Goodwill Youth Aerospace Program in Marysville.
The two-year program is set to wrap up its third round of courses this June, and Edwards touted how well its curriculum transfers to other job fields.
“We constantly hear from companies who have job openings, but they’re not in the business of teaching soft skills,” Edwards said. “They’re not going to waste time with people who don’t know how to be reliable team-players. Etiquette and social skills are valuable in any job.”
Edwards expressed pride in the number of students she’s seen transform into capable, confident public speakers.
“I’ve had kids who were in tears at first, when I told them they would have to present themselves to decision-makers in the industry,” Edwards said. “And yet, by the time they finished speaking, those industry folks have told them, ‘If I could give you a job right now, I would.'”
Students even get a taste of what it’s like to be entrepreneurs, with exercises such as last year’s company-building activity.
“They had to work in groups to create manufacturing businesses,” Edwards said. “They were responsible for designing, prototyping and marketing their products.”
Although each team worked under the supervision of adult professionals from the industries they were working in, those adults were not there to give the students answers.
“They had to figure out themselves who would be the boss, the public relations person and the money person,” Edwards said.
Students are also expected to give back to the community, and they pass on knowledge to even younger kids.
“The best advertisements our programs have are all of you,” Edwards said. “We ask each set of new students how they heard about us, and it’s always, ‘Oh, my friends told me.'”
Andy Herbst, director of the Job Training and Education Centers for the Seattle Goodwill, forecast a “huge retirement wave” of aerospace veterans in a few years.
“We’re targeting youths with jobs that we know will have a future,” Herbst said. “Aerospace is one of the biggest growth areas. The bandwidth of jobs in the field is enormous.”
Participants must be high school juniors and commit two years to it.
For details, contact Edwards at 360-657-4058 or firstname.lastname@example.org.