“Okay, but do you ever have to solve for x?”

That question was posed by a student in Gretna, LA, to a project manager with a construction company in Mandeville, LA, at the end of a virtual guest speaking session called Angles in the Real WorldDuring the session powered by Nepris, the platform for BRAC’s Virtual Schoolhouse, a classroom of 8th grade students watched a time-lapse video of a bowling alley being torn down and a grocery store being built in its place on a lot just miles away from their school.

This virtual interaction wasn’t just limited to the importance of geometry in construction, though. Through questions and answers, the students learned about creating and following site plans, driving pile, pouring concrete foundation, laying utility lines, and project managing. They learned that their presenter attributed his success in the workplace to getting along with co-workers, learning independently, working diligently, and communicating with others. They talked about the importance of executing a to-do list, and found that along the way to becoming a project manager, their presenter also worked in residential construction and chemical manufacturing.

In short, this 26-minute talk, which the students engaged in from their classroom and the project manager engaged in from his office, achieved an admirable trifecta of exposing students to the importance of both technical and soft skills, and to the wide variety of occupations involved in a project like building a grocery store.

These types of interactions offer a window into the workplace for students across the nine-parish Capital Region. The Virtual Schoolhouse breaks down barriers for students, teachers and professionals to facilitate inspiring exploration of the workforce.

There’s only one step to getting started as a volunteer through the Virtual Schoolhouse: register at https://brac.nepris.com, being sure to robustly fill in your skills and experience in the registration form. After that, Nepris takes the lead, fielding requests from teachers for business and industry expertise. If you’re a match for a teacher request, you’ll receive an email with details about what the teacher hopes his or her students will learn, and a proposed date and time. It’s as easy as clicking, “accept.”

But you can also take a second step: offer an “industry chat.” Once you’re registered, you can offer to share your expertise at a time that’s convenient to you, allowing teachers across the Capital Region, the state, and even the nation, a chance to join your session so their students can learn about your industry, your company, and you.

Without leaving your desk, you can demonstrate for students the real-world application of their in-class learning, describe for them the pathway you took to your career, or even just detail what it is you and your company do every day. Virtual Schoolhouse interactions are only limited by your imagination; you can be a guest speaker, a project judge, a college or career mentor, and more. Perhaps most importantly, you can get Baton Rouge Area students imagining the career possibilities that exist for them, right here at home.

Liz Smith

As BRAC’s senior vice president of economic competitiveness, Liz leads the organization’s public policy advocacy, strategy, research, and reform activities aimed at advancing the quality of life and economic competitiveness of the Baton Rouge Region.

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