The Southwest Airlines Professional Communications Certification verifies individuals possess the soft skills necessary to thrive in any workplace environment.
Nestled among towering pine trees, Surry County High School stands as a pinnacle of knowledge and opportunity for the rural residents of the Virginia coastal plains. With less than 750 students in the district, Surry County plays a vital role in preparing students for life after high school. Despite its proximity to Williamsburg and surrounding metropolitan centers, the Surry area remains nearly untouched and secluded from the expanding reach of urbanization. While the agricultural and energy sectors sustain the local economy, the majority of Surry residents take the ferry to Williamsburg each day to work in the city. To prepare their students for careers outside of the counties’ limited job opportunities, Surry County teachers employ a variety of instructional methods and career development tools in their classrooms.
As the assistant superintendent for instruction, Dr. Serbrenia Sims strives to provide Surry County students with the information and tools they need to achieve academic and career success after high school graduation.“ At Surry County, we provide students with the necessary resources for them to be competitive once they exit upon graduation, whether that be into the military, college or the job market,” said Sims.
The Career and Technical Education (CTE) Department at Surry County is paramount to the school’s mission in preparing students for post-secondary life. “We feel all of our students need a core foundation, and part of that core foundation is making sure they are all exposed to at least some of our CTE courses,” said Sims. “CTE serves as a great foundation, no matter what they choose to do.”
At Surry County, all students are required to take at least one CTE class while at Surry, and as mandated by the Commonwealth of Virginia, all students must earn an industry certification related to a CTE pathway. “We’re excited to provide students with the opportunity to earn a certification while they are still in high school,” said Airon Grim, Surry County Director of Assessment and Career Readiness.
As a business and information technology teacher and CTE department chair, Teresa Johnson embodies Surry County’s mission to provide students with life-long knowledge and skills vital to educational and career success. In her 28 years at Surry County, Johnson has aimed to teach both technical knowledge and employability skills to her students. For the past three years, Johnson has been utilizing iCEV curriculum and materials in her course designs and also offers her students the opportunity to earn industry certifications hosted on the iCEV testing platform.
One of the certifications Johnson incorporates in her classes is the Southwest Airlines Professional Communications Certification. Known as a leader in workplace communications, customer service and company culture, Southwest Airlines created the Professional Communications Certification when they saw a need for individuals in all careers to possess a well-developed professional communications skillset. “We believe professional communications and interpersonal skills are vital to an effective work environment,” said Linda Rutherford, Executive Vice President of People & Communications for Southwest Airlines.
The Southwest Airlines Professional Communications Certification signals potential employers the certification earner has demonstrated in-depth knowledge and sufficient skills necessary to communicate effectively, think critically and work with others. Earners of the Southwest Airlines Professional Communications Certification possess exceptional interpersonal and customer service skills and are ready to enter work environments across all industries and career fields. To earn the industry certification, individuals must exhibit thorough knowledge and skills related to professional communications, such as workplace and interpersonal communication techniques, verbal and written communication procedures and English language proficiencies and communication theories. Certification earners are more qualified and prepared to enter work environments across all industries and career fields. Since its creation in 2015, more than 7,800 students have earned the Southwest Airlines Professional Communications Certification.
Since including the certification in her classes, 11 of Johnson’s students have earned the Southwest Airlines Professional Communications Certification. These students are using the certification to develop critical workplace skills while still in school and prepare for future academic and career pursuits. Brécha Bryd, a senior at Surry County, is an active member of the student body. Bryd is the secretary of the National Honor Society, the founder of the Surry County Hype Squad and the captain of the basketball team. After high school, Byrd plans to attend college and study international business and political science and pursue a career in the legal field following her undergraduate and professional degrees. Her experiences in and out of the classroom, including earning the Southwest Airlines Professional Communications Certification, has prepared Byrd to transition into college and has helped her possess essential communication skills she will need once she enters the post-secondary life. “The certification helped me learn more about what will be expected of me in the workforce,” said Byrd.
Like Byrd, Maya Drew, a Surry County senior, is engaged in several organizations and teams on the Surry County campus. Drew is also the president of the student government association and a member of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). Along with her various extra-curricular activities, Drew works as a secretary at the Luther Porter Jackson Middle School as part of a work-based learning program. Because she earned the Southwest Airlines Professional Communications Certification, Drew says she was more prepared to fulfill the job duties expected of her at the middle school. Drew says earning the certification will also help her secure other work positions in the future. “I will have a better chance of getting a job because I have this certification,” said Drew. After graduating from Surry County, Drew plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps and aims to be a pediatric nurse.
Dionna Charity, another Surry County senior, has always had a passion for computers and technology. Charity is an active member of the Technology Student Association and plans to major in computer science after graduating from Surry County. After earning the Southwest Airlines Professional Communications Certification, Charity has come to appreciate the importance of interpersonal skills and workplace communications.
She believes having this certification will allow her to be more competitive in the job market and reduce the time she will have to spend on training and onboarding at future work positions. “Because I already have some basic skills, I can go straight to work, and my employers will be able to rely on me,” said Charity.
Industry certifications are a valuable tool in helping students of all backgrounds and interests succeed in and out of the classroom. By earning the Southwest Airlines Professional Communications Certification, Surry County students are taking a proactive step in their futures and setting themselves up for success in terms of career readiness and professional skills. Whether they aim to be a lawyer, nurse, computer scientist, or any other profession, earners of the Southwest Airlines Professional Communications Certification possess vital communication and interpersonal skills needed for success across all career fields.