Educator wins workforce award

Published 10:07 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2012

At its annual business meeting in Winchester, the Virginia Technology and Engineering Education Association’s Lynn Basham awards Gail Bess, Career and Technical Education director with Suffolk Public Schools, the 2012 Supervisory Achievement Award.

After winning a coveted state education association award, a Suffolk Public Schools administrator said the division is making great strides to give students the technical skills employers demand.

Gail Bess, coordinator of Career and Technical Education and Adult Education, was recently named the 2012 Technology Education Supervisor of the Year.

Three people were nominated for the statewide award, bestowed by the Virginia Technology and Engineering Association.

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“I was excited, and I’m still excited,” Bess said. “It’s an honor to be recognized, and especially by such a group.”

The school division’s “overall support” of career and technical education was a big factor in her success, she said.

“We have a very strong CTE advisory council, and each of our CTE program areas has a strong advisory committee,” she said.

“We take pride in our relationship with business and industry, in Suffolk as well as Hampton Roads.”

With council support, Suffolk Public Schools hosts an annual conference “with the goal of introducing ninth-graders to the diverse business community in Suffolk and Hampton Roads,” Bess said.

Tenth- and eleventh-graders experience a “non-traditional extravaganza,” showing them how gender doesn’t dictate the industries and professions in which they can work.

“We want students to know you can be what you want to be — you are not locked out of careers by your gender,” Bess added.

Twelfth-graders from the career and technical education program take part in a career expo with representative of business and industry, who give constructive feedback after mock interviews.

“Students normally get three to five interviews in the short time period they are there,” Bess said.

Employers are demanding computer skills more than anything else, Bess said, and Suffolk students are gaining industry-recognized credentials that go beyond standards of learning requirements.

For example, she said, students take a year-end Microsoft Office assessment.

“We are finding that students feel that they are prepared when they leave,” she said.

“As a collaboration with business and industry, we are able to be sure that we are focusing on the skill sets … that business and industry needs. We want them to employ our graduates; we don’t want them to go outside the city.”