Rutherford County Schools seeks expansion of work-based learning partnerships

Mar 02, 2022 at 10:17 am by WGNS


Some may consider it risky to use high school students to work in a major supply-chain business.  

But students in Rutherford County Schools’ work-based learning program are making believers out of those in the industry.   

The Innovative High School Grant team shared insights and success stories from this school year during a presentation about the program yesterday at La Vergne High School. 

In attendance were Director of Schools Bill Spurlock, Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn, LaVergne High Principal Dr. Theowauna Hatchett, Instruction director Dr. Jimmy Sullivan, representatives from the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, and other dignitaries.  

The school district’s program helps students achieve their personal career goals while helping employers become more aware of the potential of local high school graduates.  

Career coaches work directly with students to link their career objectives to academic success – especially those students who are most at risk of becoming off-track after high school.  

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Continued... Rutherford County Schools

One highlight of the presentation was hearing from Wallenius Wilhelmsen, a company which provides global logistics and shipping solutions for cars, trucks, rolling equipment and other cargo.  

“We do all of Nissan’s outbound logistics,” said Anthony Miner, an operations supervisor for Wallenius Wilhelmsen. “But working in Nissan’s backyard – that 18-year-old number really scared people. How do you convince people that we can hire folks under 18?” 

It may be justified for companies to have hesitations about hiring high school students but drawing a link between age and skill is a mistake, Miner explained.  

The program is proving to be important to students’ futures, everyone agreed. Students aren’t just learning; they’re building relationships and becoming real assets to the businesses.   

“They’ve been nothing but engaged and willing to do whatever I’ve asked them to do,” said Justin Guthrie, shop supervisor and lead mentor for students coming into the company. “I’m trying to instill in them a broad view of what we do at the factory.” 

“They probably processed 60 to 70 cars doing a couple of different accessories,” Miner added. “Quality is big within Nissan. The quality, efficiency and production through a high school group would amaze you. They did a great job. They’re hitting the numbers. Their quality and their care in the work is incredible.” 

Director Spurlock, who engaged with presenters and asked several questions about the future of work-based learning in RCS, made clear the importance of preparing students for the future.  

“College is a finite amount of time. A career is a lifetime,” Spurlock said. “We all know about college debt. It’s not gone away. It’s rampant here in Tennessee. We need to invest in these kids with programs, not just to pick up the skills, but how to actually work on and practice those skills.” 


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