LAWRENCEBURG, TENN—The Lawrence County School System recently partnered with the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence County Substance Abuse Coalition to celebrate more than 500 working students at Lawrence County, Summertown, and Loretto High Schools. The ‘Students that Work’ celebration is the second phase of the district’s new Work Ethics Matter campaign that seeks to bring attention to the value of attendance, attitude, teamwork and living a drug free lifestyle.
Each participating student was treated to a breakfast, awarded a ‘Work Ethics Matter’ t-shirt, and enjoyed hearing about the importance of character and work experience from local alumni. Matt Niswander, an alumnus of LCHS and a successful Family Nurse Practitioner, shared his experience in starting a new farming business and the importance of leadership. Tommy Lee Kidd, who graduated from Summertown High, shared about the importance of giving back to the community and networking. Rounding out the alumni speakers was Chris Beckman representing Loretto High as he explained that good character and a quality work ethic is the key to promotion.
“We must continue bringing the idea that work ethics matter to the forefront of each conversation with our youth,” explained Shannon Watson, Career & Technical Education Director for Lawrence County Schools. “We listen diligently to our industry partners and hear that they are willing to train employees on the job, but it’s more difficult for them to train employees that lack a quality work ethic. This is why we celebrate ‘Students that Work’. These are young people that are enhancing their marketability by gaining skills and building their resumes before they graduate from our system.”
“We are proud to partner with our schools and business community to sponsor this program. Our Coalition isn’t just interested in treating the symptoms of substance abuse in our community, but creating a culture that prevents youth use altogether. Students that work understand that living a drug free lifestyle is a key in building a successful career,” shared Jenny Golden, Director of the Lawrence County Substance Abuse Coalition.
Of the 1,364 students surveyed, 37.9% indicated that they have a job—nearly double the national average for this age group. The majority of students were of driving-age and work for various reasons:
- 95% of students reported that having spending money and making payments associated with having a vehicle was part of their motivation for working.
- 46% of students reported that their motivation for working included helping pay bills at home (like housing costs, food, or other bills).
“Our community stands out when it comes to our workforce,” stated Ryan Egly, Economic Development Director for the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce. “Having a less-than-average college-going rate over the last decade while still bolstering an increasing educational attainment rate indicates that young people have been finding employment at an earlier age while attending college in a part-time capacity. A lower college-going rate is typically perceived as negative, but it’s actually a positive indicator that our people are work-ready—which is the main driver of economic development today.”
Working students have a big impact on the local economy as well. 70% of students report working 13-20 hours per week; 34% of students report working more than 20 hours per week. Assuming each student earns at least the minimum wage, the cumulative payroll totals more than $2.5 million annually. These students work in every industry sector from food service to agriculture, hospitality to healthcare, construction to customer service.
Program sponsors and industry partners will recognize graduating seniors that completed their work ethic portfolios at the 1stAnnual Work Ethics Matter Celebration on May 9th. Students earning this new designation will be awarded with regalia for graduation and will also be entered into a drawing to win a new car.