East Surry senior becomes a bridge for Andrew Pearson Design [The Mount Airy News, N.C.]
(Mount Airy News (NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 02--Those with doubts about schools' renewed emphasis on Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics preparing students for modern, technical jobs could refer to East Surry High School senior Austin Johnson and his internship at Andrew Pearson Design in Mount Airy.
According to Surry County Schools Business/Industry Alliance Specialist and Career Development Coordinator David Hayes and Andrew Pearson Design National Sales Manager Jimmy McMickle, Johnson represents the type of student who is in the right place at the right time with skills that are in demand.
The table was set for this opportunity through the glass fabricator's zest for identifying new technologies and processes which mesh with new, profitable "niche" businesses which require unique products. It is the entrepreneurial mindset as the company seeks not only to adapt the new to the old but push what is possible in glass to a different level. McMickle would not speak to the particulars of this highly proprietary business but company Vice President Sue Brownfield could address one part of Andrew Pearson's innovative approach.
"Andrew Pearson Industries believes that it is critical for our young people to have real work experience before they make their decision on what career to pursue," said Brownfield. "We also want to identify talented young people that would want to work for our company while going to college or after they have completed their degree."
Johnson said his introduction to building and related issues came from his grandfather, Ron Moorefield, who started a discount building supply store.
"When I took the class, it was helpful to me to have been involved with those taking blueprints and building from that," said Johnson. "It just came natural. It's so important the experience I'm getting here. I can be a step ahead of everyone else when I go to college."
He said his contribution to the company is taking components (parts) from the firm's overall designs and using the Computer Assisted Drawing program knowledge he learned in East Surry's Drafting II and honors architecture program to literally become a link between architects and engineers so a project moves from the abstract to the concrete.
McMickle, who strongly believes education can only move forward by not watering down standards and accountability, indicated he has been pleased with Johnson's work. McMickle himself began his journey learning the language of glass when he was hired by Consolidated Glass in Galax, Va. McMickle was 16 and was only allowed to work to help his family if he kept his grades in high school up.
His background in the industry is also an important part of why the opportunity for Johnson exists. McMickle said he began with Andrew Pearson Design in April of 2000 as plant manager.
"The thing about this company when I first saw what they do is they were making stuff that was beautiful and was so different with what others were doing at the time which was just production-run glass," remembered McMickle. "You just didn't expect to see products like this in a local business. The things they created were not only beautiful, they worked."
McMickle's next move was into the company's overseas operations and he said he has traveled all over the world and has seen more of China than the United States. Next, the firm approached him to become a part of its sales team. The prospect left McMickle at a loss initially because he viewed himself as a boots-on-the-ground worker whose value to the company was in his knowledge of working glass.
"I'd never done sales," said McMickle. He said his knowledge of the technology and the processes of working in glass and his technical knowledge made the move a natural extension of what he was doing. He said to this day the company spends a great deal of time finding technology it can apply to glass.
"This is a whole new world and you have to go out in that world," said McMickle. "It's been a learning curve but our company is now getting architectural jobs. Everything must be right in the sequence in projects like this because stopping is so costly."
McMickle said he was impressed with Johnson's skills on the job and the senior's ability to focus and understand what part of the plans needs dissecting, and recreating in a drawing so the builders can proceed rapidly has made him invaluable.
"He (Johnson) gets it. He is very detail oriented. You talk with him and he understands. He has a great mechanical understanding," said McMickle. "Austin is a bridge, he breaks down an element and translates it for those who will fabricate it and can turn it around in one day or two. Sometimes with work like this a week delay means you lose the job."
Johnson said he was helped by the school teaching him the basics of the software which helped him at Andrew Pearson.
"Austin is knowledgeable in areas where I don't have expertise," said Marketing Manager T.J. Lievsay. "Having him on the team has been an advantage. It's a perfect fit. It's going to be valuable for him to learn about the industry and be able to put that into his resume before he gets out there. The expectations are very different here than from in school."
Hayes is modest about his role in helping with setting this opportunity in motion for Johnson, who hopes to get admitted to The School of Architecture in Charlotte.
"It was a matter of looking at my interns. I know the soft skills people are looking for," said Hayes. "I can't take credit. It all fell into place. The exciting thing is he's contributing. We just need more companies to come up to the plate."
He said the school district offers a variety of internships which also can include a hire or fire component at the completion so that a student may be offered a job to stay on as well as simply encouraging an intern to continue in the field. Hayes said the long-term importance for the county is retaining young, talented people in good jobs instead of losing its best and brightest.
Firms or persons interested in the Surry County Schools internship program may contact Hayes at 789-5055 for more information.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.
(c)2013 The Mount Airy News (Mount Airy, N.C.)
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