AVL First in Talent Collective: Helping Students Build Skills for Complex Problem-Solving

February 18, 2021

Today’s workplaces require complex, collective problem-solving. Asheville Chamber recently partnered with District C and North Carolina Science and Math to coach high school students in Western North Carolina to develop mindsets and tools needed to meet that challenge. Culminating the program in the AVL First in Talent Collective pitch event on Wednesday, February 24, teams of high school students from five school districts in Western North Carolina will propose business solutions to real-world business issues for representatives from Chill Cereal Bar and Grind Cafe.

“The District C program gives students valuable, real-world experience while providing solutions for business problems,” said April Brown, Director of Existing Industry & Workforce Development at the Asheville Chamber who served as a mentor for the District C program in WNC. “Ninety six percent of businesses that have partnered with District C actually installed student solutions. We’re excited to see what the WNC teams have come up with for these two small businesses.”

District C is a non-profit start-up that is building a model for diverse, equitable, and inclusive talent development. They have developed an innovative learning model to prepare high school students for the uniquely human job description of the future: work in diverse teams to solve complex business problems. This is a very direct response to the growing concern about how future jobs will be automated. To prepare the future workforce for this uncertainty, District C focuses on developing skills in non-routine cognitive work, i.e., complex problem solving. From 1990-2018, the share of jobs in NC requiring non-routine cognitive work rose from 26% to 40% while routine cognitive jobs declined due to automation. Furthermore, it is increasingly clear that complex problems require diverse perspectives, highlighting the importance of teamwork, interpersonal skills, and the ability to leverage the strengths of others.

“There is a difference between why people consider you for a job and why they hire you for a job. So what gets you hired? If you ask employers, it is being a team player, a critical thinker, and having experience working in diverse teams to solve complex problems. District C gives students the opportunity to solve real problems for local businesses and the coaching needed to work with their team to do this work at a high level.” Anne Jones, Co-Founder of District C

“I see students develop confidence in their skills and abilities, and future potential, from  their teamwork and our business partner’s feedback to their solutions. It removes barriers that grades and assignments can impose on students’ sense of self.”  Chris Thomas, Instructor/Experiential Learning Lead at NC School of Science and Math Distance Education.

Participating students come from Buncombe County Early College, Tuscola High School, AC Reynolds High School, North Buncombe High School, SILSA at Asheville High and NC School of Science and Math. The event will be held live via Zoom from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. General public is invited to tune in to learn more about how District C is preparing today’s students for future workplace challenges and to see the ingenuity of area high school students. The program will feature guest speakers: Tamanda Beza, past District C participant from Overhills High School and Brandy Mills, President & Co-Owner of Smallcakes Cupcakes & Creamery and Connie Matisse, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of East Fork Pottery. RSVP at: https://web.ashevillechamber.org/events/AVL-First-in-Talent-Collective-7334/details

For more than 120 years, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has been the catalyst for economic vitality in our community. The Asheville Chamber connects 1,700 member organizations, both large and small, representing more than 80,000 employees, to valuable resources such as economic development and research, business education, marketing opportunities and advocacy. Asheville Chamber initiatives have stimulated economic development, influenced public policy and supported the growth of thousands of local and regional businesses. Learn more at www.ashevillechamber.org.