By Treva Famer & Ramona Patterson
When presented with the opportunity from North Carolina State University to take a college-level certification course, reactions from several VCCS students ranged from “What’s it about?” to, “Hmm…something else to study for- I’ve got my eyes on the summer,” to “Maybe it’ll be a good opportunity to get ahead.”
Nevertheless, they all decided it was worth it. They sacrificed hours of their time over the summer plus some, feverishly working to get lean, and their hard work paid off in healthy dividends. And they did it without free weights, a running track, elliptical or even cardio fitness machines because their training wasn’t for weight loss but to receive the coveted Lean Six Sigma Junior Green Belt certification.
Six Sigma certification places employees on a fast track for advancement in industry. The process for this prestigious certification began in April of last year with two teams of three taking a two-month online Yellow Belt course. Then they traveled to Raleigh in July where they completed 32 hours of classroom training, after which they took a 150-point test. The last component of the certification was to improve a process at Victory, which the students did last December. One group worked on improving cafeteria lines while the other improved dissemination of information between faculty and administration. After satisfactory completion all requirements, the students were awarded their certifications by the NCSU College of Textiles.
Those certified were Xavier Richardson, Olivia Edmonds, Adarius Erwin and Travion Smith (seniors), and Assiyah Mitchell and Jayla Osborne (juniors). Treva Farmer, VCCS guidance counselor and Lean Six Sigma coordinator, and VCCS Principal Cheryl Riley are also studying for certification as mentors for the group.
Lean Six Sigma is heralded as one of the leading methodologies for improving customer satisfaction and business processes. It seeks to remove the causes of errors that lead to defects in a product or service by setting up a management system that systematically identifies errors and provides methods for eliminating them.
Farmer is excited about the opportunities it will bring the students. “Initially, students didn’t see the merit because they didn’t know what it was and weren’t familiar with the value of the certification in business and industry,” said Farmer. “But once they learned what it was all about they became enthusiastic about the possibilities.”
“This course has helped me understand more about how big business works,” said Xavier. “It’s very interesting,” he added. “It’s taught me how to capitalize on resources, eliminate errors and eliminate waste.” He plans to major in computer science after graduation and admits he’s not sure how he’ll use this intensive training in college. “I’m pretty sure it will help a lot in my career, though.”
Although certified Green Belts can earn starting salaries of about $80,000 coming out of college, Farmer explains, “It’s not just a money thing. The training will make them much more knowledgeable and experienced than their counterparts. It certainly distinguishes them with a skill set coming out of high school that most of their peers won’t have, and it makes them highly qualified in the marketplace.”
Aside from using the skills they’ve acquired at any company, or in their own businesses, Famer said, “This preparation can help them in every area of life, from daily routines to special projects. It can help organize and prioritize their lives.”
Last spring, NC State invited about 150 high schools throughout the state to participate in this pilot project. They’re the nation’s first university to offer a junior-level Six Sigma high school certification course, and the goal is to expand it nationwide.
Jeff Blessinger, the College of Textiles’ Lean Six Sigma program director and Latoya Giles, program coordinator, are the masterminds behind this high school pilot project. They have such a passion to help young people because they’ve seen how it’s changed lives and know what it can do for them,” said Farmer.
“Everyone talks about reaching young people sooner to make a greater difference,” said Blessinger. So I thought, ‘What would be the best age group to teach Lean Six Sigma?’ To me, high school students make the best choice since they’re starting to take on more responsibilities and preparing for the future, whether it be college or work.”
He said when his wife and daughters experience everyday inefficiencies, they often jokingly ask him, ‘Why don’t you Six-Sigmatize this process?’ “Although they’re only teasing, they recognize the basic foundation for improving any process.”
Congratulations to these students and mentors, and to God be the glory for this opportunity!