HANCOCK COUNTY — A guaranteed job interview. Tuition reimbursement. A sign-on bonus.

Local industries and businesses are offering incentives to high school students who complete a newly created certificate program designed to streamline graduates into Hancock County’s workforce. Greenfield-Central and Mt. Vernon schools have partnered with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and a handful of local businesses to offer to Hancock County high school students a local chapter of the Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate program.

The program pushes students to prove they’re employable by demonstrating throughout high school they possess the skills they’ll need to be successful outside the classroom. It’s about more than grades — they’re respectful and dependable; they take initiative and are persistent; they show up.

Educators say business leaders consistently tell them they don’t need students with the highest grade-point average to fill open positions; they need hard workers. Maybe a student has a perfect 4.0 GPA, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re employable, Greenfield-Central Superintendent Harold Olin said.

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The local work ethic certificate program will help schools identify those students who can meet local industry needs, officials say.

Recently, local educators and business leaders met to unveil the program and garner industry interest in participating.

In a room full of local employers, Olin said local schools do a good job preparing students for college upon graduating from high school. But they want to make sure they’re also preparing students to be successful if they choose to immediately join the workforce rather than pursue a four-year degree.

And as fewer studies pursue post-secondary education, such efforts are more important than ever, officials say; the number of students who enrolled in colleges and universities dropped 1.7 percent in 2016, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which has tracked decreases in enrollment for four straight years.

Meanwhile, educators say it’s their responsibility to watch such trends and prepare students accordingly.

The first Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate program was launched in East Allen County schools in 2006 under former Gov. Mitch Daniels. The program aims to create a pipeline of skilled high school graduates to enter the Hoosier workforce by emphasizing the skills students need to be successful in their careers.

The program doesn’t teach them how to do specific jobs; rather, it encourages good attendance, community service and dependability.

Now, high schools across the state are launching local programs, and Hancock County educators say they see value in offering the program here.

Starting next year, students at Mt. Vernon and Greenfield-Central high schools will be encouraged to consider joining the program. While it will be open to all students, those who don’t plan to head to college will be considered prime candidates, said Nathan Bruck, director of The Academy at Greenfield-Central, the district’s alternative school.

Upon graduating, students who successfully complete the program will be presented with a certificate from the governor, and businesses that agreed to partner with schools will offer them work-based incentives.

Maybe they’ll be guaranteed a job interview. Or they might be promised a sign-on bonus upon joining a company’s ranks. Some businesses might even be willing to reimburse tuition for trade schools or college.

But earning the certificate won’t be easy.

Throughout their high school careers, students in the program will be measured in nine areas of academic and work-ethic competency. They’ll need to show they’re persistent, respectful, dependable and efficient. Three of their teachers must sign paperwork attesting the student has met those requirements.

They’ll also be required to complete six hours of community service, have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher and have a 98 percent attendance rate.

Being late to school more than four times will cost them the certificate; more than one disciplinary referral will also hurt their chances of completing the program.

It’s rigorous, but students earning the certificate will have demonstrated the academic and work-based skills they’ll need to be successful employees, said Scott Shipley, director of special programs at Mt. Vernon.

“This program is not going to be like the little league trophy, the participation trophy everybody gets,” he said. “It’s not going to be that 95 percent of our students are going to get this certificate.”

Hancock County Community Foundation president Mary Gibble, who attended one of the first meetings to launch the local program, applauded the effort, saying positions at the community foundation typically require a college degree — but that doesn’t mean every applicant has the work ethic she seeks.

The program also could serve as a way to promote the jobs awaiting Hancock County graduates in their hometowns, she said.

“I would see real value in knowing they learned what work ethic is even before they went off to college and come back,” she said.

How to get involved

Businesses looking to partners with Greenfield-Central and Mt. Vernon as they implement a local Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate Program should contact Scott Shipley or Nathan Bruck.

Shipley, director of special programming at Mt. Vernon, can be reached at 317-485-3100 or scott.shipley@mvcsc.k12.in.us.

Bruck, director of The Academy at Greenfield-Central, can be reached at 317-477-4622 or nbruck@gcsc.k12.in.us.

At a glance

Greenfield-Central and Mt. Vernon high schools are launching a local Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate program to prepare local students to join Hancock County’s workforce.

Several businesses have already agreed to partner with the schools to offer work-based incentives once students complete the program, which aims to strengthen soft skills like good attendance, reliability and hard work.

Businesses participating are:

  • Keihin
  • Greenfield Daily Reporter
  • Fortville McCordsville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • University Loft Co.
  • Greenfield Banking Co.
  • Innovative Pharmacy Solutions
  • Valley Builders
  • Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Shelby Bottled Gas Corp.

Rigorous requirements

Students participating in the local Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate program will be measured in nine areas of academic and work-ethic competence.

Five areas are subjective, and students will be required to have three teachers sign paperwork stating they demonstrate the following:

  • Persistence
  • Respectfulness
  • Initiative
  • Dependability
  • Efficiency

Educators will also look at their attendance, GPA, service to the community and disciplinary record. To earn the certificate, participants must:

  • Complete six hours of community service
  • Have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher
  • Meet all graduation requirements
  • Have an attendance rate of 98 percent
  • Be on time to school (Four or more tardies will disqualify them)
  • Behave (receiving more than one disciplinary referral a year will disqualify them)
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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.