School superintendents, business leaders and students came together last week for an annual luncheon held by Capital Region Partnership for Career Development to showcase the experiences of high-school students at local companies.
The students were involved in mentorships, internships or job-shadowing experiences during the 2017-2018 school year. Student were accompanied by their advisers and together they explained the purpose and duties of their partnerships, in a gallery-walk style presentation.
The connections between high school students and businesses in Central Pennsylvania is growing year by year, especially as employers look to address issues with finding and hiring qualified workers.
Tom Palisin, executive director of The Manufacturers’ Association, said manufacturers enjoy hosting students as it allows students to experience the work and also shows them the industry’s expectations.
Some of the downsides of hosting students, Palisin said, include issues of generational differences and scheduling. On the other hand, many manufacturing companies and fields are struggling to find employees, so outreach programs are extremely valuable.
“Students may think it’s [manufacturing] dangerous, dirty, low-paying and boring,” Palisin said. “In reality it’s high tech, robotics, high-paying, and very creative.”
Students also report having a positive experience. Senior Ebben Berenstein of the Susquenita School District in Perry County completed an unpaid internship with Camp Hill-based event company JDK Group and enjoyed the many opportunities to network with local businesses and the real-life experiences that were offered. She plans to major in marketing because of her positive experience in this business-centered internship program.
Students also enjoyed job shadowing. Taylor Gibboney, a senior in Big Spring School District in Cumberland County, shadowed multiple engineers at engineering firm Gannett Fleming Inc., which is based in East Pennsboro Township
“I definitely feel like I figured out how engineers can work together and see what each type did,” said Gibboney.
Goodwill offers a program in the area of career exploration for students with special needs. Through the state’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and federal funding, the nonprofit employs special-needs students for a set amount of time in order to prepare them for careers and life. The typical student in the program works about 90 hours. Students are rotated through the program with Goodwill running six annual sessions of the program.
Sherry Wiest of Goodwill said the program allows students to learn “soft skills, job skills and social skills” all of which are important for their futures. She believes such programs are valuable to all businesses and wants to encourage them to hire more diverse employees.