Making the right connections

Students from five high schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools took a step on their way to college and career readiness at the Charlotte Skills Training Fair, held Oct. 8 at Project 658 on Central Avenue.

CMS partnered with The Serving Leader Project (TSLP) to hold the event for 245 high school seniors, who were introduced to training programs for a variety of industries. The students from Vance, Harding University, West Charlotte, East Mecklenburg and Garinger high schools were able to meet mentors in a variety of areas, including construction, electrical, medical and the military.

Executive Director Robert Rowan founded TSLP in 2018 after becoming concerned about upward mobility, poverty, crime and the high number of disengaged youth in the community. As a 45-year construction industry veteran, he also knew there were vast shortages of skilled workers in his industry alone. Forming the nonprofit was a way to bridge those gaps and help individuals obtain practical and life-skills training, mentoring and job placement.

“There’s something for everybody in Charlotte, so why not try to connect the dots for people who need training?” Rowan said. “We didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. We partner with those who are already doing this type of work, like CMS.”

Students were assessed by CMS counselors prior to the event to help them select their specific areas of interest. At the fair, they met with exhibitors, filled out a survey and received lunch.

Derrickus Howie, a senior at Harding University High, attended the skills fair on the advice of his teacher. He said he is interested in the medical field.

“When you get out of school, you want to find a stable job,” Derrickus said. “I wanted to find out about as many internships as possible. I want to be a psychiatric nurse. It’s what speaks to me most, and mental illness is an important issue.”

TSLP’s first event was held in March for the public, but this skills fair was aimed at engaging high school seniors. Rowan said the plan is to eventually springboard into different events and involve more schools.