Students 'ServSafe' food

More high school students are turning to part-time jobs to make money, and for many of those students, a job in the food service industry is an easy way to gain employment.

Catawba County schools offer ServSafe food safety classes for students who have or hope to have a job in food service.

Not every student is meant to attend college, and CTE classes help those students find the right career niche for them.

"Not every career requires a four-year education," said Karen Cale, Catawba County Schools Career and Technical Education director.

The program is also available for Newton-Conover City Schools students.

"Students have something that they can graduate with in their hands other than a diploma, said NCCS CTE director Melanie Elrod. "We do anything we can to enhance their education."

Several students in the ServSafe classes work in restaurants, making their certification even more applicable in their daily lives.

Newton-Conover High School teacher Brenda Wilson, who teaches students to become ServSafe certified, said she has several former students who now work at area restaurants. Their ServSafe certificates are proudly displayed in each of their places of employment, which include Geppeto's, Pizza Hut and Subway.

One of Wilson's current students, junior Panhia Thao, works at Dairy Queen. She doesn't plan on a career in the food service industry, but she hopes her ServSafe certification will give her an edge when she's applying for part-time work during college.

"I thought it would be a good thing," Thao said. "When you're in college, it always helps to work in restaurants. It was just something good to have."

Restaurants who have ServSafe-certified employees receive additional points on their state-mandated inspections, making students who have the certification attractive candidates for jobs.

Students learn about all aspects of food preparation and service. Those tools can be applied for students currently working at a restaurant or for students who want to own, operate or manage a restaurant of their own.

Cale and Elrod said CTE programs, such as ServSafe, prevented students from dropping out of high school and allowed them to graduate. While those students may not be designed for advanced placement classes or college-level instruction, they are capable of learning a trade that prepares them for a career after high school.

CTE classes also help students reinforce skills learned in previous math and science classes, such as measurements and simple chemistry.

"We reinforce all those basic subjects in school (during CTE classes)," Cale said.

Catawba County schools offer other CTE programs for students, including Microsoft-certification programs that allow students to become certified in Microsoft computer programs. Bunker Hill High School joined the partnership in October, and the remaining CCS high schools jumped on board this semester. NCCS also offer Microsoft certification for students who aim for a career in technology and computer information.