Coming soon to your school: Reading, writing—and rocks?
An ambitious new program from the Diamond Council of America aims to give high school juniors and seniors a basic gem education and chance to work at local jewelers—and hopefully interest a new generation in the industry.
The DCA’s Jewelry Career Readiness Initiative lets high schools offer the group’s intro courses on diamonds, gemstones, and advanced jewelry sales. At the end of the lessons, the students receive DCA certifications, which makes them prime hiring prospects for local jewelry stores, says DCA president and CEO Terry Chandler.
The program aims to take advantage of a new trend in education, which stresses career-oriented classes that improve students’ employment prospects. Many districts receive extra money from their state and the federal government when they offer job-oriented curricula, Chandler says, giving them an incentive to offer the DCA course.
His organization has hired industry vet Suzan Alexander Weir to approach local school boards about incorporating its coursework into their lesson plans. The colored gemstone course is meant to be taught in art classes, Chandler says, because it “teaches students about the color wheel, metalsmithing, jewelry design.” The jewelry-sales class can be taught in a business class, and the diamond course may be suited to either art or science classes.
The DCA already launched a pilot program at a high school in Woodstock, Ga., where four classes were offered.
“I went down to the school on the first day,” he says. “They weren’t negative but they were high school kids. There wasn’t any great enthusiasm. I came back a year later, and I gave them their certificates, and they were nuts about the business. They were nuts about the product. And no longer intimidated to walk in a jewelry store.”
Some 60 to 70 percent said they plan to apply for jobs with local jewelers, he says.
“We are giving these kids an opportunity for a decent living,” he adds. “When you’re in college and you wait tables, you always wonder if you have enough tips at the end of the night. This lets the kids get a job in a jewelry store, making a reasonable living in a nice, clean environment.”
Weir is looking to expand the program in Georgia and then possibly throughout the country. The hope is to get 20 to 30 school districts on board in the next year, Chandler says.
If it all works out, local jewelers may be asked to addressed the classes. And he hopes it will provide the industry with a new talent pool.
“One of the huge issues in our business is we are getting gray,” he says. “We have a need to get young people interested in our industry.”
“This will create a huge database of potential employees,” he says. “And even if none of the students goes into the jewelry business, they will be predisposed to the product, which they are not now as millennials.”