An emergency medical technician curriculum is being added to the Zachary High School curriculum thanks to a recent regional workshop.

Area students and teachers gained real-world work experiences thanks to participation in the Regional Workplace Experience Exchange program.

Made possible by a grant provided by the Louisiana Department of Education and administered by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, the program focuses on career awareness, exploration, recruitment and outreach and workplace experiences that allow students and teachers to explore career opportunities that lead to high growth, high-wage jobs in high demand sectors, according to a news release.

The North Capital Region Jump Start team includes the school districts of East Feliciana, Pointe Coupee, West Feliciana and Zachary.

“BRAC is uniquely qualified to bring together business and industry and the education community to proactively address regional workforce supply and demand,” said Liz Smith, director of policy and research at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. “Collectively, we’re working to ensure that stakeholders understand available jobs by industry, as well as the requisite skills for success.”

The program provided practical work experience through: career awareness and recruiting/information sessions, field trips and tours and teacher externships.

The grant focused on career awareness and recruitment in demand industry sectors of health care, industrial construction and STEM/Process Technology. The information sessions featured guest speakers from Turner Industries, ExxonMobil and Acadian Ambulance.

Through these sessions, students and teachers had the opportunity to learn about workplace experiences and hear realistic views of high-wage, high-growth careers in demand industry sectors.

The information sessions featured workers who provided personal accounts of everyday life in their chosen careers. Workers emphasized lifestyle and educational requirements and basic skill sets necessary for employment — commonly referred to as “soft” skills.

Student workplace experiences included field trips and tours of business and training facilities to provide a visual, hands-on point of reference of specific careers, technical skills and the included industries.

Teacher externships were also part of the program. Selected by school principals, participating teachers pursued professional development opportunities connecting the classroom to the workplace. The externships, which culminated in two days of collaborative lesson planning, enabled teachers to learn through direct experience about trends, skill requirements and opportunities in industries related to their subjects to allow them to strengthen their teaching and classroom experience and provide relevance to students.

The externship curriculum was based on a best practice model by University of California, Berkeley.

Participating employers included: ABC Pelican Chapter, MMR Training Center, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, ExxonMobil, Performance Contractors, Acadian Ambulance, Turner Industries, Jacobs Engineering, BASF, Zachry Industrial and Dow Chemical.

As a result of the program, Acadian Ambulance is establishing an emergency medical technician curriculum at Zachary High School. Additionally, the company is offering clinical rotations for Baton Rouge area teachers.

“The Regional Workplace Externship was a great opportunity for us to provide industrial construction insight to the actual instructors so they can better develop the workforce of the next generation,” said Joel Thames, corporate training manager at Performance Contractors. “We find tremendous value in hiring recent high school and technical college graduates to satisfy workforce demand. From our perspective, the experience was a huge success.”

Sixteen teachers participated in an externship. An art teacher developed a cross-curricular lesson plan, “Five Minutes to your Future,” for teaching career pathways in manufacturing and soft skills needed for success in an industrial setting, based on practical experience at Zachry Industrial.

A team of teachers, including a financial math teacher, an agriculture teacher and a basketball coach, created a five-day lesson plan that begins with the importance of effective and clear communication, covers teamwork and professional appearance, and culminates in guest speakers discussing safety and technical skills, based on their experience at BASF, the release said.

“At first, our operators were reserved in talking with the teachers. As they began talking about their specific tasks and responsibilities and realized the teachers were genuinely interested in learning from them, they warmed up quickly,” said Laurie Stumpe, of BASF Corp., the Zachary site director. “It was personally satisfying for me that our team was able to share our collective manufacturing knowledge, and I appreciated the engagement from operators who best know the technical and teamwork skills necessary for success in their roles.”