Ford, FFA sets a great example in the classroom

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Updated Dec 16, 2016

FFA Students Learn about F-Series LiveHaving taught in public schools for several years, I can quickly attest to student apathy and frustration over content that comes nowhere close to piquing their interest.

Granted, there are fundamentals that cannot be ignored: good grammar and a firm grasp of math, art, science and P.E. (Great lessons in sportsmanship and leadership are often picked up in P.E.)

But at a time when global competition continues to grow and various career fields continue to expand—particularly in the auto industry—it’s time for K-12 education to step-up and routinely get students connected to career fields that they find interesting.

Enter Ford, Future Farmers of America (FFA) and Discovery Education. Hard Working Trucks reported on the live webcast that the three partners recently produced for students across the country. It’s no secret that students thrive on high-tech, and that’s what this presentation delivered through an interactive medium that let students ask questions while learning about several career paths from accomplished professionals. This one-hour webcast will stay with them for years to come.

Ford reports that 55,000 students in 1,100 classrooms tuned in to watch and learn about careers at Ford and in agriculture—both of which go hand-in-hand. Students sent in over 400 questions during the live presentation, some of which a Discovery Education host pulled up directly on his tablet and posed to pros standing nearby. Interviews with Ford engineers, designers and others proved highly informative and interesting to watch.

The internet has completely revamped show and tell in the classroom and can provide numerous opportunities for OEMs and other auto-related businesses to reach out to students and cultivate career interest while reinforcing the importance of education. Students are already tuning in to watch YouTube truck and car videos. What’s missing oftentimes is a lesson plan and a plausible connection to the curriculum. What’s also missing is shop class. A lot of high schools have done away with auto repair classes. That was one of my favorites in high school. I just had to be careful around that cold tank.

Again, having been a teacher for several years, I know how demanding the profession is—and it continues to become even more challenging. Teachers often do not have the time to pick-out an interesting video and create a lesson plan around it. But, companies interested in courting tomorrow’s movers and shakers could follow in Ford’s footsteps, reach out to schools and provide some worthwhile content and lessons in an exciting and ever-changing industry.

This doesn’t mean having to physically visit schools. Ford’s live webcast with FFA is a great example. That single video can now be shown repeatedly. The biggest hurdle, however, may be the schools. Most, arguably, need to step up their career outreach programs, if they even have one. The last school I worked at, Palm Bay Preparatory Academy in Panama City, provides career internships for high school students. Students get dressed up, go to work and learn some valuable lessons on the job. But not every school can or will provide internships.

Whatever the reason, schools can still bring auto industry professionals and others into the classroom through live, interactive webcasts. Or, at the least, informative and motivational videos can be shown. No matter the format, when it comes to business and education partnerships, it’s obviously true that some schools will prove more challenging to deal with than others. While deeply divisive political issues may be to blame, that shouldn’t stop interested parties from trying to present interested students with exciting career opportunities. This is a win-win if there ever was one. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) proponents can find plenty of real-world lessons in businesses across the country while students consider future career goals.

Students interested in video production, journalism and education could even get in on the act and help produce webcasts and videos. Microsoft even offers free a video production program online. This isn’t brain surgery. It just takes the right people coming together for the right cause: tomorrow’s workforce.