Our show Fast Forward visited the electrical wire company Southwire for good reason. The company is not only a great hands-on launchpad to science, technology, engineering and math careers, but it is preventing at risk kids from dropping out of school by giving them jobs.
NPR’s Youth Radio recently profiled Southwire’s 12 for Life job program for failing high school students at risk of dropping out. That’s right , in order for students to qualify for the program, they must be 16 years old and in school; they must be flunking, have poor attendance and a low family income.
Students work at the company part-time while finishing up their high school studies at the same time in a traditional classroom setting. They earn real wages and receive incentives for doing well like pay raises for perfect attendance or academic achievement. The skills they learn can be applied to jobs after they graduate but Southwire emphasizes that students must stay and finish school.
The program is apparently working. One of the students interviewed in the piece has graduated and is in college. Carrollton school officials who are in partnership with Southwire for the program, report that high school graduation rates have jumped up 10% up from six years ago.
Last season Fast Forward shadowed some of the students from Southwire’s engineering academy for 11th and 12 graders. It’s a partnership with Carrollton High School. Students spend a summer embedded with the company’s engineers. They are given a major project and work together to “fix problems” as one student describes it. Watch the video below to get the full story.