Students get a hand building their ‘brand’

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

Thanks to a new online program, students at Darlington County Institute of Technology (DCIT) are now marketing their skills, career and education goals and personal talents to colleges and potential employers.

Representatives of the S.C. Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA) visited the school Oct. 22, and helped students in grades 10 through 12 build their first digital portfolio. These online profile pages will help them find scholarship money, connect with colleges and universities and get on the radar for manufacturing career opportunities.

“We wanted to try and find the next round of talent earlier. Everybody is having a tough time finding folks,” said James Richter, SCMA director of workforce development.

To locate and recruit students who demonstrate aptitude for advanced manufacturing, technical related careers and higher education, SCMA created the Future Makers program in 2016. The program’s networking engine is STEM Premier, an online program that mixes social media personalization with curriculum vitae hard facts.

James Richter

“Think of it as if Facebook and Linked In got married and produced something that was useful for students,” said Richter.

DCIT director Robbie Smith vouched for the efficacy of the program. He noted that a number of home schooled DCIT students got access to STEM Premier when it first started, and some of them received employment inquiries from Sonoco based on their portfolios. Smith encouraged students to utilize the program and get everything they could from this opportunity.

“I think all of you in here are interested in scholarships, salaries or both. If you want to go to college, you’d like somebody else to pay for it. And if you want to go ahead and get a job, you’d like for them to pay you as much as possible … and you can get this by selling yourself, showing them what you’re capable of,” said Smith.

Valerie Keller, student engagement specialist with STEM Premier, helped students set up their portfolios, and demonstrated ways to spotlight special skills, talents and character traits that could increase their appeal to business and college recruiters.

Valerie Keller

Keller said that as a recruiter for numerous universities and corporations, she pays attention to more than just test scores and GPA when evaluating a student.

She urged them to include any work experience, especially jobs where they were entrusted to handle money, as this demonstrates responsibility.

Keller also helped students add links to videos, images and documents to illustrate their achievements in sports, the arts, social work and other enriching hobbies. She noted that highlighting such activities helps to show students as well-rounded individuals.

“When we’re talking about building your brand, creating your online presence, all we are trying to do is make it easy to create a positive first impression,” said Keller. “We want to make it super easy for you to promote yourself professionally and set yourself up to get into a great college, to go work at a great company and have a successful future.”

In addition to helping students build their profiles, the SCMA’s Future Makers program engages with business and industry – companies like Sonoco and Honda – to show how STEM Premier can help them tap a new vein of potential recruits.

Author: Rachel Howell

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