SIDNEY – Anna High School seniors Ashlynn Smith and Hayden Weiskittel aren’t sure of their plans after graduation, but a Workforce Partnership of Shelby County event gave them a look at some of the available opportunities.
Workforce Partnership invited seniors from every Shelby County high school to attend its second annual POWER LUNCH on Friday at Amos Memorial Public Library. The students had a chance to meet with 13 local employers and explore their career options.
“It was a very focused group of students today,” Workforce Partnership Executive Director Deb McDermott said. “It wasn’t just if you’re a senior, you can come. It was we want seniors who are ready to go to work or get a skills certificate or just don’t have a path at this point.”
With graduation a little more than four months away, students said, they realize the need to start planning for the next chapters of their lives.
“I’ve always known that I needed to start focusing on it more and more, especially as time gets closer,” said Weiskittel, who is unsure if he wants to attend college or directly enter the workforce.
Smith, who has considered careers in nursing and writing, said the POWER LUNCH opened her eyes to some of the opportunities available to her.
“I think it’s a really good idea,” she said of Friday’s event. “It broadens my ideas of what I can do and what interests me.”
Approximately 40 students from six schools – Anna, Botkins, Jackson Center, Lehman Catholic, Sidney and Sidney-Shelby County Opportunity School – registered to attend Friday’s POWER LUNCH. That was up from the 20 students who attended last year.
The students attended seven 20-minute networking sessions, meeting with officials from Ferguson Construction, Detailed Machining, Wells Brothers, Wayne Trail, Slagle Mechanical, Panel Control, Lochard, Wilson Health, Francis Manufacturing, NK Parts, Schwan’s Mama Rosa’s, AGRANA Fruit and Honda.
Greg Dickman, the human resources coordinator at Slagle Mechanical, said his company is looking for entry-level and experienced employees. He appreciated the opportunity to meet with students and extol the benefits of pursing a career in skilled trades.
“Right now it is hard to find people that want to go into skilled trades whether it be plumbers, sheet metal workers, electricians, masons, whatever it may be,” Dickman said, adding he has to work to change students’ perceptions about those jobs. “You’re not just in there getting dirty all the time. It’s clean work, and it’s a way to make really good money.”
Recruiting Shelby County students is beneficial to local employers, McDermott said, because they’re more likely to remain with their companies than workers who come from other locations.
“The best case is that we retain local talent because local talent tends to stay longer,” she said. “When you recruit from outside and they come to Shelby County, they may not stay as long because they don’t have family here, they don’t have friends here right away. But if they come right out of high school and they get a position here in Shelby County where they have family and friends, the longevity is more likely.”
McDermott also wanted the students to know Shelby County is a great place to be because it has the most manufacturing jobs per capita in the state, leading to lots of openings.
“You have to put forth the effort, but you are really lucky because in my day finding a job wasn’t quite that easy,” McDermott said. “It was much more competitive.”
Julie Smith, the Community Foundation of Shelby County’s scholarships and grants administrator, told the students there are numerous scholarships available that can help them earn certificates and associate degrees, which can assist them in getting jobs and advancing in the workplace.
Whether it’s an entry-level job or a job that requires specialized training, Dickman wants Shelby County students to realize there are lots of options close to home.
“I think at times, kids don’t understand all the opportunities that are there,” he said. “They’re so ready to get out of here, and they don’t understand the opportunities they have.”
McDermott hopes Friday’s POWER LUNCH got students thinking about their futures and prepared them for life after graduation.
“You’re going to be walking down your graduation aisle, and you are in the next phase of life,” she said. “And if you don’t have a clue where you’re going, it’s a lot more stressful. So we want today to help take that stress off of you a little bit.”
While he hasn’t made up his mind yet, Weiskittel knows Friday’s event will be beneficial in planning his future and will provide contacts for when he is ready for a job.
“Very beneficial to have contacts at the ready,” he said, “be knowledgeable about what people are looking for.”
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