WEE camp held in the summer
A select group of Central Louisiana educators toured area businesses this summer to learn about trends, skill requirements and career opportunities in industries located within the region.
The weeklong Workplace Experience Exchange Camp, also known as WEE Camp, gives public school teachers the opportunity to step into the workplace and learn about careers and work environments their students will one day encounter. The aim is to cultivate a broader, global mindset among educators that they can instill in their students.
The camps are administered by The Orchard Foundation, the education arm of The Rapides Foundation. They are part of the Career and Postsecondary Readiness component of the Foundation’s Education Initiative which focuses on achieving career and postsecondary success through implementation of counseling, credential and advance credit programs.
The Orchard Foundation offered three WEE Camp sessions this summer:
• WEE Camp I, for middle and high school teachers, was June 5-9 and attended by 20 educators.
• WEE Camp Elementary, tailored for elementary school teachers, was June 13-17 and attended by 21 educators.
• Five teachers attended WEE Camp II, a more in-depth camp for educators who have completed either WEE Camp I or Elementary.
There is no cost to attend WEE Camp. Educators apply to attend.
Summer 2023 participants said they were eager to share the knowledge with their students. Teachers called WEE Camp an “eye-opening experience” that taught them about the skills their students will need to work in various businesses in the area.
“It will change what I do as far as encouraging the students and giving them insight on the workforce opportunities available after high school,” said a WEE Camp I participant.
At camp, educators are hosted by local employers, touring different sites and learning about what it takes to be successful in each workplace. Company representatives share their industry’s trends and workforce needs, and then explain what kinds of skills and characteristics they are seeking in future employees.
“WEE Camps are always well received by the participants. They love it, they learn so much and they form great relationships with these employers,” said Marjorie Taylor, Executive Director for The Orchard Foundation. “The employers open their doors to them for that week, but they also let the teachers know that they can bring their students in for tours, or that they will visit the schools to talk to the students.”
Since it started in 2015, WEE Camp has served 228 educators in Central Louisiana.
“It definitely helped me become more aware of the need to help students get focused or to begin thinking about future career paths,” one participant said after attending 2023 WEE Camp.
Some educators planned to update their curriculum to make sure students understood measurements and fractions. Others said they were organizing field trips for the upcoming school year.
Part of WEE Camp’s success comes from the participation of its industry partners, who provided educators with direct, hands-on experiences during their visits. 2023 WEE Camp industry partners were:
- AFCO Industries
- Alexandria International Airport
- Avant Organics
- Boise Cascade
- Central Louisiana Technical Community College
- Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital
- City of Pineville, police and fire departments
- Cleco, Brame Energy Center
- Crest Industries
- Dis-Tran Packaged Substations
- Learning Blade
- Louisiana Central
- Procter and Gamble
- Quebedeaux’s Cajun Café
- Rapides Regional Medical Center
- Region 6, La. STEM Center
- RoyOMartin, Chopin and Oakdale plants
- USDA Forest Service
- USDA Forest Service, Project Learning Tree
- UTLX, Union Tank Car
The application process for 2024 WEE camps will be in the spring. Businesses interested in participating are asked to call Aubrey Flynn at The Orchard Foundation at (318) 787-6561.