Jobskills Academy prepares individuals for new careers

Published 6:14 pm Friday, December 6, 2013

Dark Corner Diner owner Virginia Maclure used tools provided through the Jobskills Academy to launch her food truck and now permanent restaurant in Greer, S.C. (photo submitted)

Dark Corner Diner owner Virginia Maclure used tools provided through the Jobskills Academy to launch her food truck and now permanent restaurant in Greer, S.C. (photo submitted)

The Jobskills Academy located in Columbus was established as a nonprofit vocational school in late 2012.

After purchasing the facility and beginning the 501(c3) process, a commercial kitchen was built and licensed by the department of health. The mission of Jobskills Academy is to facilitate the establishment of small business and minimize barriers to allow small businesses an opportunity to become successful. The founder, George Baston, received his doctorate degree in Career and Technical Education from Clemson University. The vision was to offer an innovative approach to career and technical education to measure success by earning a living wage and demonstrating competencies in the real world versus test scores. The evolution of Industrial Education to Vocational Education and now Career and Technical Education has drastically changed how educational services are delivered.

During the past 20 years public education has greatly expanded its focus of technology. This expansion of technology began with the replacement of traditional classes like culinary arts, woodshop and welding with keyboard skills.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Today network administration, graphic design, CAD and website development are recognized as a certifications that demonstrate competencies. While our educational institutions have focused on theory and relied more on industry recognized certifications, a critical component of actually “doing” has become less a part of the formal educational process.

In today’s economy many employers looking to hire new employees spend significant resources training recent graduates to actually perform duties in the real world.

The largest segment of job creation in our economy is small businesses. While there are resources available to help individuals create business and marketing plans, the actual implementation of the plans and reduction of barriers, particularly facilities to establish the small business, is desperately needed. Providing facilities and ongoing support for all the components of establishing a small business is the goal of Jobskills Academy. Baston says “Over the years: I have seen well-intentioned, motivated entrepreneurs complete programs that help develop business plans and still they hit a brick wall.”

The likelihood of getting the banks to loan money for facilities and operations in the last five years is a real barrier.

If Jobskills Academy can reduce occupancy costs, provide support and facilitate the execution of business plans on a trial basis, we can improve success rates for small businesses. Success in this program is defined by earning a living wage. To achieve success participants must accept personal responsibility and be willing to work smart and hard to achieve goals,” Baston said.

Virgina Maclure became the first participant in Jobskills Academy in November of 2012. During the last year she has operated a mobile food business called Dark Corner Diner. During that time Maclure has overcome a number of barriers. On Nov. 23 Dark Corner Diner opened on Trade Street in downtown Greer, S.C.

“George and JobSkills Academy literally gave life to my business. From the first day I met George, me crying and begging him to let me use his kitchen, he has given me nothing but support, kindness, understanding and valuable business advice,” Maclure said.

If everyone had a George there would be entrepreneurs on every corner. He gave me the time I needed to figure out the kinks, weaknesses and strengths of the food truck business and of myself. Although I never wanted to leave his kitchen, growth necessitated that I move on. His faith and trust in me and my ability to trust him as well definitely spoiled me, as I have encountered a few really bad apples in this business that were ready to screw me any way they could,” Maclure said. “But through it all I knew I could count on George as a safe place to fall and have a good cry.”

Jobskills Academy is seeking ways to enhance the existing services being offered to residents of Polk County. During the past two years, Jobskills Academy has participated in a series of meetings with the Polk County School Board, Isothermal Community College Entrepreneurial Center, Polk County Economic Development Board, Polk County Manager, Regional Workforce Development Board and the Blue Ridge Economic Development Challenge program.

The next phase of the program will be to establish an Internet cafe open to the public to gather and share ideas about small businesses. The planned cafe would be run by a student as a small business. In addition to the Internet cafe there are plans to operate pop-up restaurants on a limited basis. The plan is to allow students the opportunity to run a restaurant for a night and to market test their concept in the real world. In some cases the pop-up restaurants will include live entertainment to allow local musicians the opportunity to earn money for performing. Jobskills Academy will also facilitate workshops and guest speakers to provide information and guidance to increase the number of small businesses created in Polk County.

-article submitted
by George Baston