In the Spotlight
Students Learn Important Workplace Communication Skills

On Tuesday, June 5, 2007, Hanover High freshmen were assembling torches in their English classes. What does assembling tools have to do with English, you ask? Quite a lot, according to four volunteer presenters from Hypertherm, Inc. who discussed with students the importance of effective communication skills in today’s high-tech workplaces.

Almost 50 freshmen from Hanover High School had the opportunity to experience firsthand how the communication skills they are learning and applying in their current classes will translate into skills employers will be looking for as the students enter the future work force.

Two teams of volunteers from Hanover-based Hypertherm, the world leader in plasma cutting technology, talked with the students and answered questions about their own backgrounds, explained how they became interested in a career in the high-tech industry, and discussed some of the important skills necessary to excel in today’s marketplace.

The workshop included a hands-on activity in which students were broken into teams of three, and given the task of assembling a plasma torch. One person was the assembler, another had the diagram of the torch, and the third person observed the communication between the first two. The assembler and the diagram reader were seated back-to-back, unable to see what the other was doing. In the first phase of the activity, only the person with the diagram could explain how to assemble the torch, based on the drawing, without feedback from the assembler. Assembling the torch was nearly impossible because some actual part colors did not match those on the diagram. In phase two, they still couldn’t look at each other, but they could speak to each other to question and clarify directions, similar to how people converse by phone. In phase three, the person who held the diagram could also look at the actual torch and the assembler’s progress. By this third try, students were familiar with the tool and had the opportunity to communicate most effectively, so they quickly assembled the torches with little to no problem.

“Certain communications themes came through in the torch assembly exercise,” said Joseph Stallsmith, a Hanover High School Guidance Counselor. “The exercise really emphasized the need for good, clear directions, the importance of being able to ask questions and clarify information, the effectiveness of face-to-face communications, and the need for back and forth dialogue.”

As the final part of their presentation, the Hypertherm volunteers arranged for a videoconference with colleagues at a different location to demonstrate how businesses often utilize high-tech equipment to communicate with vendors, clients and other associates in other locations, often overseas. Here students were able to see first-hand how modern technology really can improve communications and save companies money over alternatives such as extensive costly business travel.
This Learn to Earn (L2E) presentation is one of many offered to local high schools through the Upper Valley Business and Education Partnership (UVBEP). L2E, a program through Navicate in Burlington, VT, is designed to engage the community in encouraging high school students to consider higher-level math, science, and technology courses in an effort to broaden their future education and career opportunities. Through L2E, students are able to learn not only about high-tech careers in the abstract sense, but are also able to relate what they are learning to an actual person with unique and real experiences.

For more information about L2E or other UVBEP programs, contact us.

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