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Piedmont Middle students learn about durable skills

It is never too early to learn about available careers and the skills needed to earn them. Piedmont and Cuthbertson middle school students have heard from speakers from various local companies and organizations about professions in different industries. The speaker series, which is part of Union County Public Schools' career and technical education (CTE) department, is in partnership with the Union County Chamber of Commerce and the Workforce Development Taskforce.

The goal is to expose younger students to local career opportunities within Union County. It also helps them make more educated decisions on CTE pathways in high school that could lead to career opportunities with these companies.

The series began in February and will end in April.

Guest speaker Keith Guercio, a business development manager with Carolina Cooperative Federal Credit Union, visited Piedmont Middle on March 24 to discuss durable skills. Guercio brought jokes, candy and lots of wisdom as he spoke about the skills that are the basis for entering into and maintaining effective relationships of all types.

"I enjoy having fun with the students," said Guercio. "I am honored that they would listen and participate in my presentation.  I consider it a blessing to connect with the students and teachers as the durable skills seeds are planted."

Guercio covered a wide range of skills that included empathy, effective listening, verbal and non-verbal communication, appropriate behavior and good habits. The presentation gripped the students' attention through videos and interactive questions.

"When he talked about the importance of being on time, that stood out to me because sometimes I'm late to things," said Summer Jones, an eighth-grader. "The ten tips were helpful. Being early is something I want to start doing."

All of the skills Guercio discussed were equally important, but listening is the one he considers the key to all the others.

"Without listening skills, it would be rather hard to determine how to apply empathy or kindness appropriately. Listening shines a light on a situation to ascertain the details. Once we've evaluated the details, we can then respond effectively," said Guercio.

"I've heard of some of these skills," said Bennett Church, an eighth-grader. "It did make me stop and think about how I need to prepare for the future."