Middle school students learn where the jobs are with SHINE and KME
CAJETAN BERGER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Students involved in the SHINE afterschool program respond with questions for Richard Reaman, vice president and CFO of Kovatch in Nesquehoning. Reaman spoke to the students via Skype from China, where he was touring manufacturing facilities.
Today's society has an ever increasing demand for globally aware and technologically literate individuals. On Tuesday afternoon, students in grades 6-9, and involved with Lehigh Carbon Community College's SHINE Career Academy after-school program, had the chance to meet with the Richard Reaman, vice president and chief financial officer of Kovatch Mobile Equipment, Nesquehoning.
Reaman, who was available live from Beijing, China via Skype, spoke and presented a PowerPoint slide show about the importance of technology in the workplace and the value of technological literacy in both the local and global job market.
Reaman was in China on business to tour some manufacturing facilities. He spoke to the students in brief about his experience and the importance of the facilities to the process of creating a truck for the consumer market.
"These trucks are going to be built almost completely in the U.S. and then we'll add the finishing touches and add-ons in China," said Reaman. "This cuts down on manufacturing costs by outsourcing some of the jobs, but these vehicles are going to be 75 percent complete when they leave the U.S., so there will be quite a few jobs created in Pennsylvania.
"What we have found throughout this process is that the technology and the expertise that we have is just as important, and they need our help over there in order to do it successfully. Which is why they pursue joint ventures with the U.S. market, to assure U.S. product quality while we get manufacturing capability from China," Reaman explained.
Reaman then asked the students if they had any questions. Many hands shot up.
"Did you have to learn Chinese to go to China?" Lehighton eighth-grader Tori Clay asked.
"No I didn't have to learn, but I am in the process of learning," Reaman answered. "It is challenging. It is easier learning how to speak it and hear it but not very easy to learn the characters. They have over 145 characters to represent their words and phrases. I have been struggling with it, but I am working toward learning.
"My efforts have made a good impression on the people I am working with over here. Many people in China actually speak English and many of the signs are Chinese and English," Reaman added.
"Did you go alone?" Panther Valley sixth-grader John Cody asked.
"No, this time I came over with two people from KME (Kovatch Mobile Equipment) and another person from our operation in New Jersey. The first time I came over here I was alone and nervous, but now I have been here a few times I know what to expect," Reaman replied.
"What can students our age do to improve our chances of getting a good job?" Weatherly sixth-grader Kathleen Graham asked.
"I am an advocate of education; education with relevance is very important," said Reaman. "I am a big supporter of vocational schools and providing the opportunity for students to become mechanically literate. It is important that people can think and work with technology these days. Try to see as much and learn as much as you can."
The final question was by Lehighton seventh-grader Breanna Hoffner.
"Do you have suggestions for someone, like myself, who aspires to be the CEO of a company?" she asked.
"It really ties back to my last suggestion. Get yourself out there, educate yourself, travel a lot and learn as much as you can. Be ready to work a lot to get to that position," answered Reaman.
"You have to choose a company or start a company that allows you to do what you love. It may be a high paying job, but you can't do it just for the money. Another great quality in a CEO is the ability to make others want to perform better and work in a team."
The class bid a silent farewell to Reaman, via Skype message, because he was unable to pick up any audio. The students all responded very well to the experience. They remained quiet and respectful throughout the conversation. Many were happy to learn in a manner that could be considered unconventional.
"It was really nice to get out of a classroom and away from a chalkboard to learn about what our future holds job-wise," Graham said before heading outside to play kickball.
Jeanne Miller, the director of the SHINE afterschool program, believes this was a great way to use technology to teach students about the demands of the job market.
"Technology used for an intentional purpose and integrated seamlessly into the curriculum can be very beneficial to the educational experience. This is technology, this is where the jobs are," Miller commented afterward.
Rachel Strucko, the event coordinator, recognized the importance of the knowledge that the students had gained through the experience.
"Now they are aware that technology is being produced and manufactured globally, and how it is used in daily life and business," she said after the Skype session.
Miller and Strucko both expressed their respect for Kovatch because the company has been very supportive of SHINE's programs by providing training for students and charitable donations. They were also very pleased with the questions the students asked and expect that future classes will have similar experiences.