The Learning to Work Program, an initiative between the Andover High School Vocational Program and Pfizer, a global pharmaceutical company operating in Andover, was implemented this past year.
The Learning to Work Program offers vocational and hands-on work experience to students taking a career exploration class.
According to Mrs. Westmacott, the lead coordinator of the Learning to Work Program, many students enroll in a career exploration class in order to determine what they may enjoy for work after high school. In the classroom setting, students take various assessments and inventories to identify their strengths and passions. In addition, they practice pertinent skills they will need to have in order to access an internship, and they learn how to navigate the working world and professional relationships.
The Learning to Work Program provides these AHS students with the opportunity to acquire and apply skills that are utilizable in the real world.
At Pfizer, students can work in either the supply room or the mailroom. Supply room tasks may include logging inventory, shelving new supplies, ordering supplies, and helping employees find supplies, while in the mailroom students can sort and deliver mail to buildings on the Pfizer campus.
These activities give students a chance to participate and experience a sense of accomplishment as they are providing essential services to a company. Students who participate must be at least 17 years old and have completed two years of vocational course work at Andover High School. From there, students are able to apply skills that they have learned in their vocational, math, and ELA classes.
According to Mrs. Westmacott, these tasks and experiences benefit students as they “are gaining professional work experience that they can put on their resume,” which will “assist them with finding and maintaining long-term employment upon graduation.” It prepares them for integration into the world as “they are actively practicing how to appropriately communicate and function within a large global environment.”
The Learning to Work Program was established in October 2014. Jim Watson, manager of productions and operations of Pfizer, helped bring Andover High School’s vocational program to the next level. Mrs. Westmacott said, “Jim has a son with autism and was more than willing to help create the vision and components of the program.”
In the future, it is hoped that the Learning to Work Program can become a community initiative. Mr. Watson “is now looking to take the Learn to Work Program to a global level across all of Pfizer and wants to help us promote this idea to other companies in the Andover area,” Mrs. Westmacott said.
The ultimate goal, Mrs. Westmacott said, is to expand the “vision of the Learning to Work Program across corporate America.”
By Elizabeth Bernardin