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Teachers get real-world industry view in chamber program

Posted: September 22, 2013 - 12:05am
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Bill Pettyjohn, the plant manager at Ghann's Crickets, holds a container of crickets during a tour of the facility by high school career technology teachers.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Bill Pettyjohn, the plant manager at Ghann's Crickets, holds a container of crickets during a tour of the facility by high school career technology teachers.

Clay Ghann has made breeding and selling crickets his career.

Ghann is the president and CEO of Ghann’s Crickets, a Martinez business his father, Aubrey Ghann, started in 1952. He shared advice to some high school agriculture teachers to share with their students during a Thursday tour of the plant as part of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s Teachers in Business program.

Agriculture teachers from Evans, Greenbrier and Harlem high schools visited the cricket farm to learn what their students need to know about the management and operations of an agricultural business.

“Listen to the teachers and to the advice you get from people who have been there and done that,” Ghann encouraged the teachers to relay to their students.

Things are not what they seem, Ghann said. Even though a farm raising cows for beef or bees for honey or plants for retail sale might not always seem like a business, it takes a business attitude to make each successful.

It is important to not only know the science and technology of the agricultural field, but also knowing the marketing, financial and production aspects of the business is imperative.

“Most people don’t think about that,” Ghann said, adding there’s a lot of math and spreadsheets involved in his business. “Just because something doesn’t look like a business on the outside, that doesn’t mean anything. If they’re not running it like a business on the inside, they won’t be around very long.”

The group of agriculture teachers were one of several groups of high school Career Technology Agriculture teachers who visited area businesses including JOhn Deere Commercial Products, Georgia Iron Works, Club Car, QuadGraphics, Petsch Respiratory Services, Retreat Spa and Salon, Doubletree by Hilton Augusta, Pierwood Construction Co., Kendrick Paint and Body, WAGT, WJBF, and Peak Rehabilitation, Fitness and Performance.

The program, which came out of the chamber’s Workforce Education Committee, is designed to prepare a qualified workforce in these industries, chamber President and CEO Tammy Shepherd said. The goal is bridge the information gap between education and industry careers.

The teachers observed operations and got advice from owners about the qualifications they want to see in their new employees.

“They need to understand that an opportunity is what they make it,” Greenbrier agriculture teacher Doug Knox said.

Visiting teachers learned about the industries, careers available in those fields, the process and operations involved and the future needs of the industry workforce, Shepherd said.

“We feel like it’s important that we get our teachers into the businesses,” Shepherd said. “We are just helping facilitate those conversations but we are also very much interested in having a future qualified workforce.

It’s all economic development. Economic development is not just bricks and mortar and having a place to open. It’s also, ‘Is there a qualified workforce there to meet this need?’”

Shepherd said a smaller, pilot of the program was held in March with a visit to Allegra Printing and Graphics and Fox 54 WFXG.

That was so successful that the chamber committee wanted to do it on a larger scale.

After the Thursday tours, Shepherd said teachers want more on the next early-release day in March.

“It went very very well,” Shepherd said. “(The teachers) are very appreciative.”

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