12 For Life
Research shows that not graduating high school significantly limits employment options. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who drop out face an unemployment rate nearly 5 percent high than those with high school diplomas. They make an average of about $8,000 a year less, as well. The U.S. Census Bureau puts those gaps at closer to $10,000 and reports that nearly a third of dropouts live in poverty.
For a variety of reasons, a significant number of students doing poorly in school see dropping out as their only choice. Hoping to cut that number, Southwire and the Carroll County School System in Georgia and the Florence City Schools in Alabama are working together on 12 for Life, an innovative program that places at-risk students in real jobs at Southwire, allowing them to earn wages while earning credit toward a diploma.
12 for Life seeks to instill in students the belief that if they complete a full 12 years of education, they will have better lives. By combining traditional classroom instruction with jobs inside a real manufacturing plant, this unique partnership gives students the best of both worlds. They work regular hours; earn actual wages; and learn valuable skills they will need after they graduate. Most importantly, they stay in school.
Students attend class in a traditional setting for part of the day and work a four-hour shift in the plant for the remainder. Some additional instruction takes place in the manufacturing area while the students are working. Southwire employees share their time and experience through a mentoring program that provides one-on-one support.
Students rotate from workstation to workstation, gaining experience throughout the manufacturing process. They learn a variety of job skills, including machine operation, logistics, product and reel assembly, shipping, quality assurance and data entry. Guest speakers and tours of various Southwire facilities give students an even broader grasp of the range of jobs available and a personal glimpse of what those jobs entail. Many U.S. employers have complained that it is increasingly difficult to find job applicants with strong work ethics. Because they are actual Southwire employees, 12 for Life students learn the importance of promptness, hard work and dedication to the job.
By mid-year in 2015, more than 1,100 students had graduated from 12 for Life. Forty percent of those went on to post-secondary education, while another 30 percent joined the military. Another 20 percent went to work for Southwire or other employers. The State of Georgia’s Great Promise Partnership is based, in part, on the 12 for Life model and other companies and communities have formed similar partnerships of their own.