HANCOCK COUNTY — When Adam Wilhelm was a freshmen in high school, he never imagined he’d be a nurse some day.
And he would have scoffed if someone mentioned a career in medicine, the nursing department coordinator told a room full of ninth-graders Wednesday.
Years later, he’s made a living taking care of people and has been working at Hancock Regional Hospital for 10 years — and the job is a perfect fit.
The Hancock County Career Success Coalition, a Greenfield-based committee that aims to increase educational opportunities for young people, collaborated with local schools and businesses to host a Career Exploration Day for high school students Wednesday. They hoped to help students learn more about jobs that interest them now as well as invite them to explore career paths they hadn’t previously considered.
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Students visited some 20 businesses to learn about careers offered in Hancock County.
Wednesday morning, students from Eastern Hancock, Greenfield-Central and New Palestine high schools set out to area businesses ranging from Hancock Regional Hospital to Mozzi’s Pizza. They were introduced to entry-level jobs they can take now and professional careers they’ll need schooling to obtain.
The day’s goal is to give local high school students a first-hand look at career options in Hancock County — and face time with those who hold local jobs, said coalition member Retta Livengood.
The event first took place in 2014, when students visited three local manufacturing sites; the original event was modeled after a national manufacturing day.
Since then, the event has grown to include more students and more businesses spanning a variety of industries.
Wilhelm was one of three professionals at the hospital to tell students about their jobs and what schooling they needed to qualify for those positions. He also encouraged students to be open-minded because, as his career path demonstrates, a position you might not have considered could end up being your dream job.
Freshmen at Greenfield-Central High School participated in Career Exploration Day as part of the school’s Don’t Fear the Future Day, held annually to help students prepare for life after college. Don’t Fear the Future Day sends freshman into the community, while sophomores and juniors take career placement tests, and seniors job-shadow area professionals.
Kim Kile, guidance director at Greenfield-Central High School, said the Career Exploration Day gives young high school students an opportunity to get out in the community and better understand why it’s important to be prepared for what comes after high school — even as freshmen.
It also gives students a chance to see just how many career options are available in their own community, to encourage them to build careers and lives here, she said.
“We’re hoping by exposing our students to what’s here … that they’ll choose to stay,” Kile said. “That they’ll like what they’re seeing and realize they don’t have to go away for a job.”
Zach Perkins, a freshmen at Greenfield-Central, said he already knows what he’ll do beyond high school.
He plans to pursue a career in information technology, working with computers.
On Wednesday, he visited the hospital, NineStar Connect and Stanley Black & Decker, all places he could land a job after college. And what he saw solidified his plans.
Career Exploration Day gave him a chance to see where he could hone his skills working with computers once he launches a professional career, he said.
At NineStar Connect, students were introduced to three potential jobs the company boasts: a network operations manager within the IT department, an installation and repair technician who works out in the community setting up communication and electric services and a journeymen lineman who maintains electric systems.
David Spencer, director of marketing for NineStar, said the company wanted to expose students to a variety of careers the nonprofit cooperative utility provider offers.
Business leaders are always looking for talented community members they can add to their team, Spencer said.
Exposing young students to those careers and showing them what’s available in their own backyard is important in building the next generation of community business leaders, he said.
Angie Bodell, recruiter for Hancock Regional Hospital, echoed Spencer’s sentiments, saying the local hospital offers dozens of different career opportunities in addition to medicine.
The hospital wants to help community leaders and schools plant a seed that there are great places to work in Hancock County, she said.
“It’s definitely important for us to make sure the youth of our community are advised about the different jobs they can hold within the community to help some of the talent come back,” she said.
Students from Eastern Hancock, Greenfield-Central and New Palestine high schools deployed to businesses across the Hancock County area Wednesday for a Career Exploration Day.
The businesses they visited were:
Hancock Regional Hospital
The Daily Reporter
Stanley Black & Decker
Harvest Land Co-op
Sugar Creek Township Fire Department
Strike Force Lanes