Kudos: Hands on and real world

One business leader created a workforce-focused nonprofit to make sure students leave school with more than just head knowledge

As a mother and a businesswoman, Terri Seese took a good look at education, and saw a gap. A few years later, she’s working to fill it.

Terri Seese with a teacher and students of McEachern High School where the ASG HOPE Foundation is bringing STEM and industry together. Photo credit: Henri Hollis

The gap? The one between education and hands-on skill. In 2017, Seese, CEO of Alliance Solutions Group, filed for nonprofit status for a new foundation dedicated to connecting STEM disciplines with work skills. The nonprofit is called the ASG HOPE Foundation and its stated mission is to help “students in grades K-12 learn about supply chain and logistics through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) activities.” The acronym in the name stands for Hope, Optimistic, Positive, Effective.

“The purpose is teaching STEM activities specific to supply chain in trade skills and skill sets,” Seese says.  “I dissected it down to certain skill sets and trade skills.  I mean, all STEM programs are great, but I wanted it different.  I wanted it focused on trade skills and, of course, in supply chain.

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“So, we’re providing and creating… I call them modules — curriculum modules — focused on those trade skills. And what that does is, it’s blending,” Seese says. “It’s taking today’s corporate reality— and our corporate partners, which are our donors— and taking their purpose as a company and their training of what they do, introducing and blending it into the students and having it roll up full circle to workforce development and the future pipeline.”

The automotive supply chain figures heavily into Seese’s work with the foundation because of what Alliance Solutions does. “We’re a technology company, meaning software development, which is custom software development, and hardware,” Seese says. Alliance works with, among others, Alien Technology and Zebra Technologies, and provides, among other things, barcode scanners, RFID tags for tracking, and label printers that are used in a wide range of manufacturing distribution settings.

With a background in project management and sales, Seese started Alliance more than a decade ago. While building relationships with industry, and at the same time, raising a daughter, Seese began to see the need for connections between what businesses need and what students are learning. That led eventually to ASG Hope Foundation.

Photo credit: Henri Hollis

“I guess I’m an entrepreneur,” she says, with a laugh. “I just come up with ideas which are, you know, I’m passionate about — it’s not just an idea.  It’s just something that I had in my head that I wanted to do, and I felt it was a good idea and I started sharing it. Everyone else did, too.”

She believes that giving students real world skills that are guaranteed to be applicable in a practical work setting will provide students — and their parents — peace of mind. Students, she’s convinced, need to learn how to actually do something productive, not just learn for learning’s sake.

“I wanted hands on,” she says. “Because I’m still old school. And I know we live in a technology world, but I’m still adamant and believe we need hands-on experience.”

Currently, the HOPE Foundation is working on a warehouse model project with McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia. The idea is to teach students how to create a working warehouse, how to label parts, how to create a bar code. Zebra Technologies, which specializes in warehousing, is a partner on that project.

While the warehousing project can apply to many industries, another project is specifically automotive in nature. In that project, Kia is a partner, Seese says.

“Kia just donated an engine and a transmission to the foundation, you know, that we’re providing to the students to teach them technology, engineering, building an engine.… I mean, everything, from A to Z of a car and the engine,” Seese says.

Educational institutions, from two-year colleges to a university, are also working with HOPE, she says. “The purpose of those partnerships is introducing the kids to their options,” she says.

An innovative element of the program includes a leadership module, focused on giving students training in organizational effectiveness and leading teams. The program assigns some students to lead roles and others to worker assignments.

Seese says that there are basically two phases: first, exactly what is a leader, and then figuring out how to manage a team. She calls that “the next level of leadership.”

Having divided the class into teams with managers, this element of the program mainly works with the student managers, she says.

“We go upstairs to the mezzanine and the classroom, and we are talking to managers, and they are anywhere from sophomore [to] junior in high school students.…  And one of them this week was like, ‘Okay, well, I have a question.  How do you manage someone who is not listening?’ … It is like a real-world meeting and they are asking real-world questions,” she says.

Student managers learn about deadlines — and about the frustrations associated with team members not meeting deadlines – and about doing employee reviews, for instance.  “So, yeah, they’re already getting the real-world experience,” Seese says.

As the program continues, ASG Hope Foundation is expected to take students into corporate environments for site visits. Seese hopes that tours will give the future graduates an early glimpse into the world of work.

ASG Hope Foundation aims to provide a tangible, easy-to-understand benefit to the next generation workforce, Seese says. Despite early progress, and praise from current participants, she hopes to see the program grow and expand. “The value of the program is educating the students, or introducing the students, to options and helping them find their niche and find jobs,” she says. “I hope we are making a difference.  And it does seem that we are. And there’s still so much to do.”

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