Fall break was a restful time for many, but for several Marion County High School students, it was an opportunity to get a closer look at the high-demand field of engineering. Thanks to a dynamic partnership in Marion County, 19 students in the school’s Project Lead the Way program participated in a weeklong co-op program, gaining valuable hands-on experience with area employers.
The Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail is proud to have played a role in the co-op program. Our goals include helping job seekers find opportunity and developing a competitive workforce, and that includes engaging others and working together to better prepare our future workforce.
We believe partnerships and programs like these are essential to our region’s work readiness. Our staff helps link educators and employers to support such programs. We’re also eager to work with schools to help students with things such as resume building, interview skills and the soft skills that employers tell us are so difficult to find.
The co-op program was a partnership of Marion County Public School, Marion County Area Technology Center (MCATC), Marion County Fiscal Court, Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail and the Lincoln Trail Workforce Investment Board as well as many employers. Participating employers included INOAC, TG Kentucky, Angell Demmel, Joy Mining, Toyotomi America, Citizens National Bank, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, City of Lebanon and Fuel Total Systems. We are now coordinating with more employers for spring break co-ops.
Alyssa McRay, a junior, spent the week with engineers with the Kentucky Department of Transportation. She saw them at work in the field, joining the engineers to evaluate road paving in progress. She was surprised by the variety of the engineers’ work.
“There are unlimited options in engineering,” she said.
Junior Rae Mills worked with an industrial engineer at TG Kentucky in Lebanon and noted her appreciation for the real-world experience.
“It has helped me see the real world, not just what’s in a textbook,” she said. “I think it’s good that the factories are helping and getting involved.”
Student feedback has been positive and students returned from fall break with real excitement about career possibilities.
“The enthusiasm: I wish I could bottle it,” said Greg Conley, who teaches Project Lead the Way.
When our schools and businesses work together, our students gain a valuable understanding of the skills they need to succeed. A co-op program is one example. Faculty tours of businesses to better gauge the relevance of their students’ skills is another. Taking time to teach teens about work ethic is yet another.
Holly Brady, of automotive parts manufacturer Toyotomi, said the company sees the co-op program as a way to grow its future workforce.
“As Toyotomi continues to grow, our partnership with MCATC is very important to meet our future staffing needs. We can communicate our training needs directly to the staff, and they provide students with the skills they need to pursue careers right here, close to home,” she said.
As MCATC principal Brandon Bardin noted, many students in our high schools’ career programs will enter the workforce right after graduation.
“We’re taking them from learning to read a tape measure when they get here to being work ready when they leave,” Bardin said. “And business and industry will take them just as soon as they are ready.”
Marion County Judge-Executive John Mattingly said co-op programs help students realize there are opportunities to go to work without leaving home. That’s one reason Marion County Fiscal Court has provided funding for co-op programs including the PLTW program so students can be compensated, which not only helps them cover their expenses such as meals and transportation, but also encourages them to take pride in their work.
“We’re trying to put some of the tax dollars back out there in a way that will help them become productive citizens in our community,” Mattingly said.
As our communities work together to develop a more competitive workforce, ensuring students have the right skills and experiences is a key component. If you’re an employer who wants to get involved or if your school or organization would like to know more about Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail services, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact one of our centers in Lebanon, Bardstown, Elizabethtown or Leitchfield.
Terri Thomas is a Client Services Manager for Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail in Lebanon. She can be reached at (270) 692-6870 or firstname.lastname@example.org.