In Conversation with Dr. Brian Patterson
Lives In: Lawrenceville
Current Job: Work-Based Learning Coordinator, North Springs HS
Previous Job: Entrepreneurship/Business Law Teacher
Morehouse College, B.S. Business Administration and Management
Argosy University, M. Ed., Curriculum and Instruction
Mercer University, Ph.D., Curriculum and Instruction
Leadership: LSS Class of 2023, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) State Advisor of the Year, Youth Leadership Sandy Springs (YLSS) Advisory Committee
Family: Wife, Keri; 2 daughters – Taylor UGA, 2020 (Supply Chain and Logistics) works in data analytics for Amazon; Reagan, sophomore at Cornell (Economics and Industrial Relations) intern at Deloitte
For Fun: Playing fantasy football, listening to non-fiction audiobooks, travel (recently to Egypt)
Favorite Book Recommendations: I love everything written by Malcolm Gladwell, and am trying to find ways to integrate portions of his books into my curriculum. My favorites are Outliers, David and Goliath, What the Dog Saw, and The Tipping Point.
Can you tell us about your Work-Based Learning Program at North Springs?
Work-Based Learning is an elective class that allows students to receive course credit for an internship experience. Most WBL students are scheduled to leave school early to intern with their employers. My philosophy is that soft skills and employability skills are best learned in industry, rather than in classroom. Additionally, WBL is one of the only elective classes that can contribute to a student’s HOPE GPA calculation.
What is it all about, how does it work?
The purpose of WBL is twofold: to provide students with exposure to real-world experience that cannot be simulated in a classroom, and to give our industry partners first access to top-tier local talent to create stronger entry-level employees and/or a future recruitment advantage.
Rising juniors and seniors are interviewed during the Spring semester preceding the year of their internship placement. Students are holistically vetted through a rigorous screening process before they are matched by their skillsets and career interests to their prospective employer’s requirements. What each WBL student has in common is a history of academic success, strong teacher and guidance counselor recommendations, and a willingness to do any assigned task.
Has the program changed since inception and if so, how?
When I inherited the program during the 2015-16 school year, we averaged less than 20 students per year and had no true business partnerships. Most students already had jobs, but they were not linked to their career aspirations and the WBL coordinator position was only part-time. After teaching 5 Entrepreneurship and Business Law classes each day, I served as the WBL coordinator for the remaining 2 periods.
I convinced my principal that the program would be more valuable to students if they were placed in quality internships that matched their vocational passions. He agreed and gave me the latitude to create the program it is today in a full-time position. Now every year, over 200 students interview for 100-120 slots and we have 50+ business partnerships throughout metro-Atlanta. Our students intern in nearly every industry: law, medicine, automotive, computer over 200 students interview for 100-120 science, marketing, etc.
How do you measure success?
Measuring success is tricky; I’m constantly shifting the goal posts. When I first began I measured success by three metrics: 1) Placement Alignment: My ability to find a placement that aligned to a students career interests; 2) Employer Retention: Does an employer asks me to replace their previous year’s intern(s) and/or do they increase the number of interns; and, 3) Post-Internship Outcomes: After graduation, did the student pursue post-secondary education options aligned to the internship, continue working with the employer, or continue to work in the same vocation as a result of the experience.
Now, I also appreciate the value of an internship not working out. Some kids think they know what they want to do, until they actually do it. A few years ago, I placed a student in a veterinary hospital because of his passion and love of animals. He learned that he couldn’t handle seeing animals in pain. It’s as valuable to find out what careers are not a good fit, as it is to find out what career is.
I’ll know that the program is truly successful, when many placements are former WBL students hiring current WBL students!
What are the leadership qualities you look for in students you accept?
I choose students who exhibit the following POWER characteristics: passion, optimism, work ethic, and responsibility.
What are the leadership challenges you face as Director of the Program?
Students’ career interests are constantly shifting, so I am constantly looking for new internship partners. Sandy Springs is the home of several corporate headquarters. I have struggled to make inroads with some of the larger-sized local employers.
What advice do you give students you work with?
The curriculum for the course is designed around the GeorgiaBest (Business Employability Skills Training) standards created by the Georgia Department of Labor, designed to address the lack of employability skills or soft skills or work ethic in today’s workforce.
Beyond that, I try to instill 4 core principles: 1) Overcommunication. I teach students how to deliver important information to their supervisors in a timely manner (whether it’s good or bad news). 2) Ask Questions. The value of the internship goes beyond the tasks an intern performs. When time permits, I implore students to ask their supervisors and co-workers questions about their careers and vocational journey. 3) Show Gratitude. Realize that you were chosen. Be thankful. 4) Ask for more work. Never assume you’re done. When you are done with your assigned tasks ask how you can be of assistance in other areas.
Is there help alumni or community members reading this can offer? If so, how?
North Springs WBL has been recognized as one of the best WBL programs in Georgia. We want to be the best in the country. If you are a business owner or are responsible for hiring decisions, I would love to schedule a brief meeting with you to share how other companies have benefited from partnering with North Springs WBL. If you are interested in partnering with us, please email me at email@example.com.
What inspires you?
Retirement parties. It’s a reminder that there is a conclusion.
I am also inspired by the innovation and entrepreneurial ventures of some of my students. I allow some students to use entrepreneurship as their work-based learning placement if they provide a business plan and I have a mechanism to track their progress. I’ve had multiple students generate over $100K worth of gross annual sales and two gross over a $1million. We are living in the “Anything is Possible” generation, and it is wonderful to get a front row seat!