Rocky Mount Radiator Connects with High School Students

Students in North Carolina recently got to learn more about the cooling systems industry thanks to Rocky Mount Radiator & A/C.

NARSA/IDEA member Chuck Braswell is on the Board of CITI High School, which stands for Center for Industry, Technology, and Innovation, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. There is a public school initiative that helps prepare young adults for entering the workforce. According to the administration, CITI students earn stackable certificates in a variety of pathways with the hopes of completing an Associate’s degree. Among the tracts they can pursue include automotive and industrial courses. 

“At a Board Meeting, we were discussing setting up workplace tours, and I just thought our shop would be an ideal place to see many different facets of the service industry in progress,” said Braswell. “There were 30 Automotive and Industrial students in grades 10-12. Bryan and I brought them in and gave them a 15-minute rundown of what makes us tick, about our commitment to training and the importance of ‘investing’ in the future generations – mostly by the giving of our time and our experience – and to allow them to use their skill sets to take what we do, for example, to another level.”

During their visit, students separated into 3 groups. They rotated throughout the shop to learn directly from Rocky Mount Radiator employees. They heard from the administrative side as well as from the technicians. “We had employees speak about what it takes to run the office and the importance of good record keeping and accounting practices,” said Braswell. “The automotive technicians were able to tell the kids what prompted them to go into this business, what fascinates them about this business, and what kind of education and training it takes to stay on top of their game.” 

“What I found the most interesting at Rocky Mount Radiator was the functionality of all of these people together,” said Riley Borton, a 10th grade student at CITI High School. “It was like looking at a well oiled machine and to me that told me that no matter your background you had your place, and honestly, I thought it was amazing to see.” After graduation, Borton plans on going into the auto body or auto repair field. 

CITI High School’s principal Kimberly Rascoe also attended the tour. “CITI High is so important to our community,” said Rascoe. “We are preparing students in skills that will be beneficial to Nash County, North Carolina. Our students are learning the skills needed to be competitive in the industrial field straight out of high school.”

Students learned about each employee’s skills and what they encounter during the day-to-day operations at Rocky Mount Radiator. “Our service writer talked about the communication skills needed to converse with people, and the computer skills he uses all day,” said Braswell. “Our warehouse manager was able to connect with the kids on the importance of organization and maximizing space and time. Our radiator shop techs and welders showed how radiators and heat exchangers are constructed, the different metallurgy skills we use, different cleaning techniques, how to ‘build’ what we can’t ‘buy’ –thinking outside the box and problem solving.”

“What I found the most interesting at Rocky Mount Radiator was the functionality of all of these people together. It was like looking at a well oiled machine and to me that told me that no matter your background you had your place, and honestly, I thought it was amazing to see.”

Riley Borton, 10th grade student at CITI High School

The tour was not limited to presentations, however. Braswell says the students were very engaged and asked questions. “The students asked lots of questions about vehicle repairs, and how hard the vehicles are to service,” said Braswell. “They also seemed very interested in the art of ‘soldering’ radiators, something they had never seen before. Two of them even asked for job applications before they left!”

Principal Rascoe believes connecting local businesses with students on field trips like this gives them new perspectives. “I hope that the students will see the relevance of what they are learning in class,” said Rascoe. “I also would like for the students to see all the opportunities that are right here in our community.”

While Rocky Mount Radiator & A/C has hosted NARSA/IDEA events in the past, this was the first school-related event they have hosted. Braswell says it won’t be the last. “As business owners, it’s easy to get caught up with the X’s and O’s, the P and L’s, the expenses and the receivables. But I feel that, deep down, it’s still a people business. People still want to do business with people. And we are only as good as our people. As a 3rd generation business owner, I have seen what an investment in the future can do. And I believe it’s our duty to do all we can to reach out to the next generation of workers and let them know that a computer or a machine can’t do it all. Someone still has to be able to use their hands and their minds to keep the wheels turning, and if they can do that, they can move mountains.”

This article was originally published in the November/December 2021 issue of The Cooling Journal.

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