Finding Inspiration

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

I attended the NC WORKS Conference last month and walked away truly inspired.  I work in sales for Realityworks and keeping a pipeline of customers is essential for company survival.  Inspiration comes from seeing students become successful in life as a result of our products.

NC WORKS is not really focused on just finding jobs for people, but that is a GOOD thing.  They are focused on preparing people for well-paying careers and they have a great plan in place.  The pipeline starts with Career and Technical Education Directors looking at middle school, where kids explore careers suited to their intellect, their interest and their lifestyles.  That pipeline extends to high school, where students begin to make career choices, such as healthcare, or welding, or electrical trades, for instance.

Students choose a life career pathway that leads them to a certification, such as Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).  But, the NC WORKS group does not want the student to stop there.  They want the student to get that certification as a step into post-secondary, where the community college might take the student from CNA into an allied health field, such as respiratory therapy.

The goal is to get a student highly skilled so that they can best support themselves (salary) in their communities. That salary amount depends on where they choose to live, such as the higher end for areas like Charlotte and maybe less for more rural areas.

The bottom line here is the planning that goes into making sure we are pointing students toward careers that will allow them to live and prosper, create and support their families and be productive citizens.

The good news is that the products that my company is offering align directly in the pathways laid out by the NC WORKS commission.  Our products allow students to experience workplace skills, such as geriatric nursing, welding or electrical trades in a safe environment and allows a student to find out early if they are well-suited for this line of profession.  That makes me feel good.

This is a big charge to take on especially with and this month’s proposed Presidential Budget.  It is aimed at cutting Career and Technical Education funding by a national average of 15%, this certainly won’t help this initiative.  In North Carolina alone, according to ACTE, the state could lose 28% of federal funding under the President’s proposed budget.

Let’s hope they keep working on that budget and keep education in focus.

When Fax Machines First Came on the Market

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

When fax machines first came on the market, a friend told me a story about one of her sales.  She had gone into an office and sold them a fax machine.  She taught the office manager how to use it and everything was good until the next morning.  She was listening to her messages when that same office manager called and said, “I can’t get this fax thing to work.  I keep putting the paper in the machine, but it keeps coming out the other end.”  Funny as it was, just imaging the recipient who kept getting the same fax, over and over.

This reminds me of how far we have come with technology.  It also reminds me of how important it is to have students demonstrate their learning before moving on.

I work for a company that works to reach students by allowing them to try something difficult (or dangerous), in a realistic setting so that they can make better life choices.  They can try their hand at welding, or take a cow apart and feel the ruminant’s texture, or they can see what it is like to care for an infant.

We now start talking to kids about making career choices as early at sixth grade.  This really isn’t too early because the world is a very big place.  Waiting until they are entering high school and using the old ‘tell them over and over the importance of choosing a good career’ doesn’t work with today’s kids.  They want to feel it, touch it and experience it and they want to know what’s in it for them.

One exercise I’ve seen going on is creating a PERSONAL BUDGET.  You can start this in middle school.  Have the student create a monthly budget.  Where do you want to live, then research apartment rents. Don’t forget about utilities.  Do you want a car?  You’ll need insurance and gas.  What about food?

Put this budget together, then start looking at careers.  How much do they pay?  What schooling with they need?  Can they work while in schools?  How much money will you need to support your life?  What careers meet these financial goals.  I think it is important to talk to kids about their financial goals.  How do they want to live?  What is important?  Then, show them how to get to those goals.

Realityworks’ Employability Skills Program can help you get started with these conversations. Our products will help you continue the conversations and allow student to gauge their interest in a field before they commit money toward a goal they really don’t know much about.

For a great overview of what Realityworks has to offer take a look at our 2017 Product Lineup or visit our Products on our website.

Tradeshow Season is Here!

By Andrea Phan, Tradeshow Coordinator

What is tradeshow season? At Realityworks, our Account Managers and other team members attend nearly 100 tradeshows over the course of a year. Of those, nearly HALF occur during the summer tradeshow season, between June, July and the first week of August. In addition to our flagship Career and Technical Education Conferences, we’re excited to be talking with you at Agriculture Teachers Education Conferences featuring our new interactive animal models and Health Science Education Conferences introducing our new hands-on nursing skills training.

Our Account Managers are passionate about our products and enjoy seeing you interact with all of the great hands-on learning aids in the booths. Based out of Eau Claire, WI, many of our products that you see at tradeshows are shipped cross-country and put on many miles before they return home. We’ll be visiting 30 states in 8 weeks for almost 50 state-level tradeshows as well as several national conferences such as HOSA, AITC, INACSL and AAFCS.

We are also delighted to have presentations at select conferences highlighting our experiential products and providing you with useful tips and tricks to help you in the classroom. Watch your email for more information regarding conferences near you or for a complete list visit our website at http://www.realityworks.com/news-events/tradeshows.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Welding Training Technology Sparks Skill Development and Cost Savings at Iowa High School

Administrators at Harlan Community High School (HCHS) in Harlan, IA understand the importance of technology in the education of 21st Century students – they’ve been using virtual reality welding simulators for years to help ag students explore the field of welding while developing basic skills and techniques. Their advanced technology helps teach students how to weld, keeps students engaged and saves money.

A Cost-Effective Solution

“For us, it’s not only about technology, but it’s about saving costs,” said HCHS Agriculture Education Teacher Dan Leinen. “You don’t need to purchase metal and rods and wire, yet it simulates welding.”

According to Leinen, one of the most notable benefits of the easy-to-use simulators is their  ability to introduce students safely and effectively to the art of welding.

“Unlike real welding equipment, no one is afraid of a video game – they’re just going to go for it,” said Leinen. “The anxiety of going out and welding for the first time is totally gone. That’s something I can’t teach.”

Funding the Simulators with Local Support

After experiencing Realityworks’ welding solutions and seeing the advantages of such technology in the classroom firsthand, the administration began raising funds to purchase additional machines. A variety of resources were used to help the school acquire the  simulators they now own, including funds from a federal Carl D. Perkins Career and  Technical Education Act grant and donations from the local Future Farmers of America chapter and local businesses. Fundraising provided to be the most important part of the process, although Leinen said there was a specific reason why the school was able to raise money relatively easily: the welding simulators themselves.

According to Leinen, the school’s ability to bring potential donors into the classroom and experience the simulators firsthand had a significant impact on the businesses’ decision to donate funds.

“We had one here already, and if people wanted, they could come here and see it,” said Leinen. “When people got their hands on it and saw what they would be supporting, and experienced what the kids would do in the classroom, it was a huge seller.”

Leinen recalls one company owner who had an FFA background but had never welded. He sat down and tried the simulator and almost instantly committed to donating funds.

“In today’s economy, it’s hard to get funds from companies,” stated Leinen. “But if you can  show them what they’re supporting, that makes a difference.”

Now, the difference can be seen in how the students are learning and the feedback that the school has received from the entire community. According to Leinen, the school continually receives feedback from parents, business leaders and community members about the school’s advanced welding training technology. He plans to continue taking simulators to state conventions to encourage more schools to invest in their own.

“It’s a drop in the bucket when you look at the total, overall scheme of things,” said Leinen. “This is cutting-edge technology, and for a school district to use the same technology that  major companies use to train is really exciting.”

Ready to learn more about the guideWELD VR welding simulator? Click here.

Summer-ready RealCare Babies in 5 simple steps

We’re approaching summer again, which means most RealCare Baby® infant simulators are being put away for a well-deserved rest. Before storing your Babies for the summer, follow these 5 simple steps. Doing so will help ensure that your Babies are ready for summer break – and that you can enjoy a smooth start to your RealCare Program this fall.

1. Give your Babies one final full charge.

  • Baby should be charged overnight, then unplugged – don’t leave Baby plugged in all summer. Ideally, your Babies should be charged for a few hours every 3 months. Haven’t used Baby since January or February? Now is the time to charge them overnight.
  • FYI: The batteries will gradually drain out on their own. Do not be surprised if the Babies start to make a popping sound while in storage. This is an indicator that the batteries are giving off their final amount of charge. Don’t worry; this is normal and the popping sound can last for a few days.
  • You can follow along with the “RCB Battery Maintenance” instructions here.

2. Wash the clothing and clean the Baby.

  • For Baby: Disinfectant wipes, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and acne cream with sunlight are all great ways to get ink and other common stains off of Baby’s vinyl
  • For Baby’s clothing and supplies: Baby’s diapers and clothing can be machine washed in cold, gentle cycle. Tumble dry on low. We recommend line drying to prevent wear and tear.
  • Get more great cleaning tips here.

3. Place your Babies in plastic bags to protect the vinyl.

  • Be sure the bag does not have any print that can bleed onto the vinyl.

4. Store your Babies in a cool, dry place.

  • Baby should be stored indoors, in the plastic bag, for optimum conditions. If this isn’t possible, every attempt should be made to keep Baby dry and clean.
  • If Baby is stored in a very cold or hot environment, allow 24 hours for Baby to adjust to a moderate temperature before use.
  • Dramatic changes in temperature can cause water condensation inside Baby. Allow time for the condensation to evaporate before use.

5. BONUS TIP: Jump-start your fall lesson planning  by downloading our free career exploration curriculum today!

We know how important it is to provide career exploration opportunities to students. That’s why we created the Using the RealCare Program for Career Exploration, which contains 6 lessons that use our RealCare products (Drug-Affected Baby, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Baby, Pregnancy Profile, RealCare Baby and more) as springboards to career exploration lessons.

(Don’t have all the products? No problem! They’re not required to use the curriculum).

Click here to learn more and download the curriculum yourself.

Learn more by watching our on-demand webinar: How to Prepare RealCare Baby for Summer Break:

Additional Product Support resources like video tutorials, documentation, webinars and FAQs can be found in our online Product Support Center. If you need further support, contact our Product Support Team by calling 800.830-1416, option 2, or emailing productsupport@realityworks.com.

Educators Weigh In: 5 Ways to Use Virtual Reality Welding Simulators in the Classroom

By now, you’ve probably heard that that virtual reality welding simulators like guideWELD® VR can save you time and money while engaging students and training them more efficiently. And it’s true – studies like this one have been published that support the effectiveness of these teaching tools.

To help you get started with virtual reality welding simulators so you can see these results for yourself, we asked seasoned users from across the country how they were using these tools in their programs. Keep reading for 5 ways to use virtual reality welding simulators in the classroom.

5 Ways to Use Virtual Reality Welding Simulators in the Classroom

1: Use them to recruit students for your welding program

“We can’t bring students into the actual shop because of the liability, but with the simulator, students can get the feel for it and kind of see what’s going on before enrolling,” said George Karr, IT Administrator and Welding Instructor for the Hollenstein Career &
Technology Center in Fort Worth, TX. “Before school started, we had kids come in with their older siblings during  orientation who remembered using the simulator last year and were excited to show their younger brother or sister. They really like it – it’s a great recruiting tool.”

2: Use them to provide welding and manufacturing career exploration opportunities

“A lot of these kids have never touched a welder or turned a lathe in their life,” said Mobile Manufacturing Lab Technician John Paulus, who uses the guideWELD VR welding simulator in the Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Mobile Manufacturing Lab to provide middle- and high-school students from across Western Wisconsin with manufacturing career exploration opportunities. “We’re trying to get these kids excited about getting skilled and getting into manufacturing careers. This equipment is enhancing our ability to do that.”

3. Use them to engage students with classroom competitions

“We had competitions with the guideWELD VR unit… everyone was trying to beat each other’s scores and kept taking more turns. Everyone was really excited about it,” recalled Rodian Manjarres, a second-year student at the J. Harley Bonds Career Center in Greer, SC. “I liked it a lot because I could beat the guys at it. There are only a few of us that can get the gun to turn gold.”

4. Use them to keep more students productive – and safe

“When students asked why they were having to slow down or speed up or whatever, I’d walk through their weld with them,” stated Karr. “Once they got going, I could walk away from them and oversee other students in the shop who were working on something else. The kids using simulators didn’t need as much help as those working alone – it told them what to do so I could go help someone who needed it.

5. Use them to generate community support for your program

Harlan Community High School Agriculture Education Teacher Dan Leinen recalled one specific reason why his was able to fundraise money relatively easily: the welding simulators themselves.

“We had one here already, and if people wanted, they could come here and see it,” said Leinen. “When people got their hands on it and saw what they would be supporting, and experienced what the kids would do in the classroom, it was a huge seller.”

Leinen recalls one company owner who had an FFA background but had never welded. He sat down and tried the simulator and almost instantly committed to donating funds.

“In today’s economy, it’s hard to get funds from companies,” stated Leinen. “But if you can  show them what they’re supporting, that makes a difference.”

Ready to learn more about the guideWELD VR welding simulator? Click here.

Realityworks Employee Spotlight: May Edition

Meet Casey Kooiman, Realityworks’ International Business Consultant

Casey Kooiman was born and raised in Wisconsin Dells and later moved to Hammond, WI, at the age of 12. She spent seven years in Washington, DC, where she studied at American University and later worked as an International Market Specialist in the automotive industry. Casey’s fondest memory of DC life was when she worked in the media department for the Washington Capitals.

“I attended all of their home games and would get to go to the locker rooms after the games to interview some of the best players in the league,” she explained.

As a self-proclaimed Midwesterner, Casey moved back to Wisconsin in 2012. She lived in Milwaukee for three years before relocating to Eau Claire for her position with Realityworks.

“I handle just about everything pertaining to selling our products abroad whether it be working with our many distributors, lead generation, researching new markets, etc.” she said.

Working with our international distributors is her favorite part of working with Realityworks, Casey explained, because they are all incredibly unique.
“We have our small, mom-and-pop type shops like Virtual Parenting (Australia) and Babybedenkzeit (Germany) to our larger partners like Camera Mundi (Puerto Rico) and Studica (Canada & Nordic),” said Casey. “I am privileged to have the opportunity to work with them on a regular basis, whether it is via Skype or in-person.”

Casey has found the international travel to be the most interesting part of her job.

“I can’t get enough! For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for learning about and experiencing new cultures, particularly when it comes to cultural differences in how one does business,” Casey explained. “I’m always reading The Economist for world news updates, asking our distributors and international friends about their perspective on world events, and of course immersing myself in the culture when I do have the opportunity to travel.”

As for a favorite Realityworks product, Casey’s is RealCare Baby.

“When I explain where I work to family, friends (both domestic and international), and business contacts, they may not always know the name Realityworks, but they almost always know about RealCare Baby,” she explained. “RealCare Baby is where the company began, it provides a great segue to explaining our mission and it is darn cute too!”

Another Step Toward a Skilled Workforce: House Introduces Legislation to Strengthen CTE

By Timmothy Boettcher, President & CEO of Realityworks, Inc.

2015 ACTE Business Leader of the Year

The U.S. is on a path towards realizing how important Career and Technical Education (CTE) is in this country, and a big step forward on that journey was taken yesterday. On Thursday, May 4th, a bill to update the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act was introduced in the House of Representatives. Introduced by Representative Glenn Thompson ( R-PA) and Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), the bill, among other things, gives states more control over how to spend Perkins funding.

It is brilliant step by our legislators to ensure that our schools have the right structure and tools to teach today’s students about career opportunities that are vital to our economy, and ensure ensure they have the skills they need to succeed in the workforce.

This bill, which differs slightly from the one that Representative Thompson and Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) introduced in Congress last July, seeks to reform several aspects of the Perkins Act to reflect the challenges facing students and workers today. Highlights of the bill include improved alignment between education and workforce development laws, which will drive program congruence. It also simplifies the process through which educators can access CTE funding by lessening bureaucratic requirements and expanding state control.

Funding for CTE programs helps students like these Altoona, WI middle schoolers, pictured with Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and Realityworks President & CEO Timm Boettcher at the Altoona School District Fab Lab, learn industry-needed skills like coding and robotics.

I applaud the educators, business leaders, legislators and industry representatives who have worked so hard to maintain focus on strengthening CTE in our country. Without their efforts and the efforts of CTE advocates across the country, our schools would not be able to equip students with the academic, technical and job-related skills they need to succeed and keep our country’s workforce competitive.

It is spectacular to see those efforts coming to fruition, and I look forward to seeing how this bill unfolds as the House Committee on Education and the Workforce considers this legislation in the upcoming weeks. I would encourage it to not only pass but expand in scope as the need is strong to keep America great.

More information on the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act can be found here.

In addition to being the President & CEO of Realityworks, Inc., Timmothy Boettcher chairs the Industry Workforce Needs Coalition (IWNC), serves on the Board of Directors for Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and chairs the Western Wisconsin Workforce Development Board. Timm also invests energy into fostering entrepreneurial and innovation in leadership roles on the University Wisconsin – Stout Discovery Center Board, Innovation Foundation of Western Wisconsin, and EdNET Advisory Board. In recognition for his efforts, Timm was chosen as the 2015 ACTE Business Leader of the Year. Timm has presented workforce development strategies on several national levels Harvard’s Pathway’s to Prosperity and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Expanding Programs for the Health Sciences Pathways

Realityworks is very excited to be expanding our programs for the Health Sciences pathways in 2017. With the need for healthcare workers expanding, the need for engaging, hands-on training will increase as well. Per a report released by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020 the need for healthcare workers will grow by 5.6 million. With this, post-secondary education for these jobs will also grow.

Our products provide comprehensive learning solutions that pair curriculum with interactive learning aids, student activities and assessment tools to create innovative learning environments. We focused our Health Sciences products on bringing educators practical, hands-on skill development opportunities using realistic and affordable training tools.

New product areas include:
Injections
Phlebotomy
Blood pressure
Catheterization
Wound care
Patient Care Skills
AND more!

We invite you to learn more about these great products be downloading our 2017 Health Science catalog here!

From Chicken Legs to Life Skills: What I’ve Learned from Ag Education

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

I learn something new every day. But what I learned this week reminded me of an old Bob Hope joke (remember who he was?)

Bob Hope once judged the mini-skirted fashion model Twiggy when he said “Give her an inch and she’ll make a skirt out of it.”

Today, I learned from an Ag Education teacher that you judge chickens, namely hens, by their legs – or rather, the whiteness of their legs. The whiter the legs, the more “seasoned” the hen, and the more eggs she will produce.

This is something useful to me, not just because I work for a company that sells experiential learning aids for agriculture education, but because I am learning how valuable Ag Education really is, whether or not students ever become farmers or teachers – because I am a consumer of food.

It’s kind of like when I learned how to drive in driver’s ed. I never had an intention of becoming a professional driver, but I needed to learn to drive in order to find work, food, or just see the countryside.

Ag Education teaches kids the importance of producing quality food, distinguishing what is healthy and what is marketing on labels. It teaches kids how to grow food in water, fertilized by fish waste. It teaches kids how to mend a fence or a tractor by welding. Life skills is really a central theme of Ag Education. Kids learn how to do just about everything around the home or farm, but it also allows them to decide what they will be best suited to do in life. And, like most of us, they won’t be doing the same thing their entire lives. When life throws a curve, they’ll have other skills to fall back upon.

Oh, and another thing, just to set the record straight: Chickens lay eggs with the large side out first, not the small. I learned that from our Chicken Model.

Diane Ross holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. She has been with Realityworks since 2013, and has been instrumental in assisting educators with implementing educational solutions that make a difference in students’ lives.