“The community interest, the positive feedback, the impact on students, the impact on our programs by exposing future students to what they could take when they get into our classroom… we did not expect it to take off like it did,” said the North Carolina coordinator and former agriculture educator, who uses a variety of Realityworks tools for the trailer.
Lindsey Spivey Hardee
Director of Career & Technical Education, Harnett County Schools
Hardee works to ensure that Harnett County Schools’ CTE programs meet the needs of the local workforce and provide a seamless transition from high school to local post-secondary schools. Trades, agriculture, and healthcare are big focuses for their CTE programs as these industries are the top economic areas in their community with the highest hiring needs.
“We have spent much of our time over the last two to three years addressing the needs of the local economy and ensuring our students have not only just the CTE state curriculum in place to prepare them for those pathways but the technological and the instructional tools that are necessary,” Hardee stated. “Realityworks has certainly been able to provide some things to expose our students to those industries that may be hiring them soon and enhance that for us.”
After receiving a capital credits refund, then-CTE program director Justin Wilkinson knew exactly what he wanted to do with it. They purchased a trailer and filled it with state-of-the-art equipment to address the local hiring needs. They reached out to Realityworks for the guideWELD® VR welding simulator, which allows users to practice basic welding skills.
“We don’t have to have Wi-Fi, which makes it awesome for something like this. We can take it anywhere,” explained Hardee. “If anyone is interested in using a welding simulator for something like this, that’s mobile, there’s a way to do it. It’s super easy and everything’s lightweight, easily packable. It’s totally doable wherever they are.”
Realityworks provided training for the simulator, ensuring Hardee, the teachers, and the director would all be able to show students and other community members how to use it.
“This gives a great opportunity to just teach the masses about trades and do that in a user-friendly and fun way where they’re comfortable,” Hardee said. “It’s fun and engaging for students.”
In addition to offering welding career exploration opportunities, the trades trailer includes simulators and kits for agriculture and health science.
“We have the Geriatric Simulator and the Geriatric Sensory Impairment Kit,” stated Hardee. “We have the [Swine Litter Processing Kit] where students can dock tails, clip teeth, castrate. That’s a huge hit with all ages.”
One Piece of a Big Movement
The CTE program’s trailer is one piece of a big movement at Harnett County Schools to promote local industries with hiring needs and bring together the school system, industry, and vendors. The trailer is used at school career days, community events, and even a career carnival set up for fifth graders to explore different pathways.
“Students were able to engage, climb on the trailer, see the welding simulator in action, and that was fantastic,” Hardee said. They also hosted their own trades competition for students. “Our trailer was front and center, letting parents know that when we say that there is a need in our local economy and we have the support of our community college and our school system, we stand by our word to give students the opportunity to explore those careers. Not only just tell them about it but let them engage in it because you truly cannot decide if you want to do something for a living at 18 years old if you’ve not had your hands on something related to it.”
Another community event they attended is called Denim Days, which takes place in Erwin, North Carolina and celebrates the denim factory the town was built on. This was an extra special day for them to highlight trades careers as the event celebrates the manufacturing jobs that founded the town.
“For us to be there, highlighting trades careers and seeing the people who used to work at the mill, really ignited something in folks that CTE is still here and still very relevant, and it’s expanding,” stated Hardee.
They also got a truck for the trailer with the capital credits refund they received the second year. They had it wrapped with their name and brand to help raise awareness for their CTE program.
“People know when they see [the truck and trailer] coming to their neighborhood school or community event that this is here to educate and enrich children,” Hardee said.
With the trailer being available for community events, it’s been able to reach students and even parents outside of Harnett County Schools. This allows them to engage with students who otherwise may not be exposed to certain career pathways. However, they are selective in where they take the trailer.
“We definitely don’t want it to be something where people just come and see and hear; we want them to engage with us,” explained Hardee. “[We] keep the groups of students coming through small so we can talk to parents, and we can ask the students what they’re interested in and spend time with them, making them comfortable to encourage them to try something new.”
They were keeping track of the number of students reached through tally marks on the trailer’s roof and were up to 83 students at the end of 2022 before losing count.
“We do have a goal for next year to continue keeping track of how many students we have reached, how many parents we have reached because that’s how you continue to grow partnerships and continue to have people to support you, not only financially but with the future of their workforce,” Hardee shared.
The trailer and the tools within it are not only used for awareness, but also to help students interested in these careers hone their skills. When it’s not booked at events, the trailer is parked at the high school for instructors to use. Some instructors will use the trailer for a week or two to teach students resiliency and flexibility on a job site as many people in trades careers don’t always have a designated work area.
“Mr. Pursche utilized this for a whole semester when we did not have it booked out events and it was fantastic for him,” stated Hardee. “With regards to the simulators through Realityworks that we have on the trailer, our director has done a phenomenal job of testing them out with our trades trailer and then seeing the impact it can have to enhance classroom instruction.”
The guideWELD® VR and Electrical Wiring Kit, a kit that lets students practice wiring common electrical circuits safely, are examples of tools that they decided to purchase for classroom teachers as well. High school students can then be trained on the simulators and come to events with the trailer where they can teach others in the community how to use it.
“One of our extra layers and goals we have for the year moving forward is to be able to allow students who are ready for a leadership role and really great at a trade they are learning to come with us to events and take the field trip with us to an elementary school and talk about how they were the student in fifth grade who didn’t read so well… then they got into career and technical education and they found something to do with their hands that they love,” Hardee explained.
They also let teachers use the trailer’s learning aids when it’s not booked at an event. However, the teachers typically want to keep the tools full-time, so they do their best to get them their own simulators and trainers when funding is available.
“It’s a great way to test drive something and really see the benefit of it,” said Hardee. “It’s a great way to get teachers on board and train them without them even really realizing that they may be receiving one next year that could be used instructionally.”
This aids in the implementation process, helping teachers fully understand the tool and how it can be used in the classroom.
“For anyone who is considering to enhance what they’re already offering through new teaching materials, simulators… try to move away from the ideology that everything is one-size-fits-all,” Hardee advised. “Provide your teachers with the support and resources that they need, but encourage their creativity with the use of it, and show them grace with the pace at which they are confident to take that out and use it with students because it is different for everybody.”
Harnett County Schools work closely with local colleges to measure the success of their implementation efforts. They receive data on which career pathways are experiencing high and low enrollment and what new pathways they can work together to develop. They also keep track of where the CTE program’s students go after they graduate through federal reporting.
“We also have a lot of PBMs, performance-based measurements,” stated Hardee. “Our teachers are able to use things like [guideWELD® VR and the Electrical Wiring Kit] to prepare students to perform a skill with their hands that can be judged using a state-issued rubric.”
They keep track of all this data to hold their students and teachers accountable and help them see where they need to grow and focus efforts with additional teaching tools.
“For example, if you or someone in your district who is over accountability for CTE and you’re seeing that data and credentials are not meeting your goals that the district has set for students, you might consider adding something like a welding simulator where they can practice without burning up consumables and gain their confidence,” Hardee explained. “Then they’re able to show you that skill set or understand that on a written test better to increase overall success.”
Increasing Future Success
Harnett County Schools has big hopes to increase success by expanding the use of the trailer with more tools, more events, and more staff to operate it. “We’re limited in staff, but we’re not limited in creativity, so we will address it,” Hardee said.
They want to continue bringing awareness to their CTE program’s trailer by looking at different ways to market it and get the word out about where it will be as well as let the community know the trailer is available for their events. More awareness opens the door to more resources that improve CTE programs for students. Moving forward, they’re asking themselves questions about how to do just that.
“How can we increase awareness so that we open up more resources to make it better, we continue to get approved to fund things to make it better, and our teachers understand we mean what we say when we say this is a team effort?” Hardee stated. “Harnett county is a great place to work, and we want to retain good people. We see a big picture here.”
Learning tools used:
guideWELD® VR welding simulator
Use the guideWELD® VR welding simulator to help students explore welding career paths and master welding fundamentals while you save on costly consumables.
RealCare™ Geriatric Simulator
This award-winning wearable simulator enables users to personally experience a variety of age-related physical challenges such as stooped posture and restricted range of motion.
Geriatric Sensory Impairment Kit
This kit includes a Hearing Impairment Simulator, Geriatric Arthritis Simulator and Geriatric Tremor Simulator. These tools enable users to experience common sensory challenges aging patients face every day.
Swine Litter Processing Simulators
Use each of the four piglet simulators in this kit to practice four processing techniques. These techniques include teeth clipping, castration, tail docking, as well as ear notching.
RealCareer™ Electrical Wiring Kit
The RealCareer™ Electrical Wiring Kit gives students a safe, hands-on lesson in wiring common electrical circuits. The portable, battery-operated kit provides instant assessment and corrective feedback.