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Drew, who was mentored in the program, practices a presentation on his business plan. SUBMITTED PHOTO

ASHLAND Some basic skills needed to be successful in business aren’t taught in school; they are acquired in the workplace.

Ashland Community and Technical College, The Neighborhood and Member Choice Credit Union are working together to provide that experience for business students at the school.

The program, which was established four years ago, allows students from ACTC and volunteers from The Neighborhood to spend one day a week for one semester working at the credit union, learning the ins and outs of having a “real” job.

Rebekah Michael, program coordinator for the Business Administration program, says the mentorship program isn’t a required part of students’ educational experience, but is one that is highly encouraged.

“I have a lot of students in my program, and they come from all walks of life. Some are non-traditional, some are fully online, some are young and inexperienced. We offer lots of great credentials and pathways to success, and I view internships as another fantastic option to gain experience and form professional relationships while earning college credit,” she said.

Students have varying responsibilities during their mentorship, but there is a large emphasis on learning soft skills, such as punctuality and communication.

“This mentorship grew out of two simultaneous conversations we were hearing in the community a few years back,” said David Deborde, who is mentoring the students at MCCU. “The first, from employers, was the difficulty in finding quality workers. It seemed that they were having problems finding people to do things that were taken for granted a decade ago, such as showing up on time, communicating and dressing in a work-appropriate way.”

He added, “On the flip side, we were hearing from young adults that many jobs required at least some experience and that the younger generations really didn’t have the opportunity to ‘learn’ how to act in the way most businesses expect them to act.”

That’s when the partnership began.

Darrell Mahan, Loran Patterson, Alexis Smith and Dean Kitchen are participating in the program as part of the business administration program at ACTC.

Smith said she and her peers have learned the importance of dressing and acting appropriately on the job and how important flexibility and communication are. She said she also believes she will be prepared to enter the workforce at the end of the mentorship.

“Getting this mentorship meant everything to me, because as somebody with very little experience, it provides me with something to put on a resume,” she said. “Not only that, but it provides me with some insight on what I want my future to look like and where I want to go in life which is what I had hoped to accomplish here.”

Patterson said says she hopes to build connections and end the internship with a career.

“I’m just very grateful to have gotten this opportunity and I’m glad the school offers this for students like me,” she said.

Kitchen said the mentorship, encourages prospective students to consider joining the program so they can have a similar experience.

“Every moment of it has been meaningful and inspiring, but also challenging in a good way. I encourage everyone to always chase after their dreams, no matter how silly they may seem to everyone else,” he said.  

Mahan is encouraged by the opportunities the mentorship provides.

“This mentorship is giving me a great opportunity to secure a job once finished, whether that be with Members Choice, or another company outside of Members Choice,” he said.

Deborde said four from The Neighborhood started in the program this year, but one left because he was offered a good, full-time job.

Participants include: Ben Dingess, a volunteer at The Neighborhood; Andrew Woods, a student at Rose Hill Christian School and the first high school student to participate; and Taylor Hall, who is finishing her work on her GED.

He said those in the mentorship program range in age from 18 to 33 this year. Students are working on a capstone project to present to the board of directors. It aims to involve other businesses in the mentorship project.

“We’re hoping other businesses in the area will start doing this, partner up and see what you can do to make our work force better and your company better and your community better,” Deborde said.

Service Office Supply has already become involved in a support role, coming in to talk to students about running a small business and providing some of the materials needed.

Deborde said the credit union’s participation cost the company about $10,000 each year; students receive a stipend, breakfast and lunch and an outfit to wear on interviews.

“We’re just trying to help people get jobs and help businesses get quality workers,” Dingess said.

Although MCCU and other partners do not guarantee that internships will lead to full time work, Michael says it is common that they give ACTC interns consideration when full-time positions open up.

Michael says she is continually looking for new businesses to partner with for the mentorship program.

The associate in applied science degree in business administration combines foundational business courses and general education courses, and ACTC students choose a track to develop focused knowledge, skill and expertise in accounting or management.

Both Deborde and Michael celebrate the partnership between the two institutions and the experience students are able to have when they participate.

“We are big fans of working with ACTC because when we think about the future workforce, the young men and women at ACTC are getting a quality education in fields that are actually in demand in society,” Deborde said. “As a financial institution, we appreciate even more that they can get this education at a reasonable cost. Each of the students we’ve had has been in their business program, so we try to make connections with that curriculum as much as possible when putting a mentorship schedule together.”

“Our partnership with MCCU and David Deborde is really exciting because our students not only get to job shadow and learn skills that they can apply to their careers, but they also get to discuss personal finance, networking, project development and management and they complete academic assignments like book reports and response papers and participate in mock interviews,” Michael added.

For more information, visit https://ashland.kctcs.edu/education-training/program-finder/business-administration.aspx or email Michael at rmichael0005@kctcs.edu.

(606) 326-2661 |

lward@dailyindependent.com

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