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State labor commissioner visits Newton career academy

Newton College & Career Academy Principal James Woodard, right, shows Georgia's Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler around the kitchen at the academy on his recent visit. Butler talked to about 20 students about their futures while visiting the school. Staff Photo: Michelle Floyd

Newton College & Career Academy Principal James Woodard, right, shows Georgia's Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler around the kitchen at the academy on his recent visit. Butler talked to about 20 students about their futures while visiting the school. Staff Photo: Michelle Floyd

COVINGTON -- Georgia's Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler recently paid a special visit to the Newton College & Career Academy to talk to students more about their future employment.

"Anytime you share what's going on in the work force with young people, it prepares them for the next step," Butler said about his visit. "It's important to have open dialogue and tell them what's going on and how they can be successful."

Academy Principal James Woodard said the visit is part of a series of events the school holds for students throughout the school year to introduce them to scenarios they might come in contact with in the work force. Butler's visit was a working lunch environment; this year students also participated in a networking event and a product showcase.

"This is where students really get to apply what they learned in a live setting," said Samantha Fuhrey, deputy superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at the Newton County School System.

Teachers chose about 20 students to attend the event in which they talked with Butler in a roundtable format about their businesses some have started and their plans for the future work force.

Butler also gave students advice about topics like networking -- how making connections and meeting people face to face can help them land a job.

"What it all comes down to is relationships and making a personal connection with them," he said. "You gotta get out there and be social. It's essential."

Some students told Butler about their fears of public speaking and socializing with employers in a professional setting.

"Public speaking is important," Butler said.

He told them that what characters say on television doesn't help -- don't imagine everybody in their underwear.

"The key to public speaking is to know what you're talking about," he said. "The only times I get nervous are when I'm a fish out of water."

He added that having confidence also helps.

And he told them that when meeting with other professionals or future employers, it helps to come up with three or four standard questions to ask everybody, so you don't have awkward moments of silence or get nervous and talk too much.

"You speak less and let them speak more," Butler said. "Ask questions and see what your common interests are and then follow through."

Butler also answered students' questions about the election process and his job and told them about some of the programs the Department of Labor offers, such soft skills training, career fairs and partnerships with schools and other organizations. He encouraged students to get further education or gain work skills because most unskilled jobs are not available in the current economy.

"Almost everything now you need some type of skills," he said.

He also encouraged students to dress well, have good interviewing skills, research potential employers and express a good personality.