HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE: Workforce program could lead to future full-time employment for students

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Eastern Hancock senior Jacob Moss, left, talks with Hancock County Surveyor Susan Bodkin. Adam Barton, EHMS/HS Principal said EH has been working with local businesses on increasing workplace opportunities for students. These businesses include the Hancock County Government office, the Assessor’s Office, the Auditor’s Office, the Surveyor’s Office, the Recorder’s Office, and most recently with Hancock Regional Hospital. Moss, who will be attending Ball State next year, has been working directly with the county surveyors staff getting valuable hands on experience. Tuesday, Feb.1, 2022.

(Tom Russo| Daily Reporter)

EASTERN HANCOCK — On days when he’s not going over plans for buildings and property lines, Logan Moss is out looking at beaver dams or drain piping and walking through the mud to see where things are.

The bright, energetic Eastern Hancock senior is interested in going to college and getting into the field of construction management. He feels fortunate to be able to step into the real work field and get all kinds of professional business experience with his job at the the county surveyor’s office.

“It’s been really interesting so far working at the surveyor’s office,” Moss said. “It’s something I never imagined I’d ever do, but I really like it.”

Officials at Eastern Hancock schools, like most in the county, for many years have had a workforce program allowing students to go to school half day and then attend a different school offering technical classes or have some kind of part-time job. However, the focus has shifted recently, and school officials are teaming with professional businesses in the community to give students real work experience in the field they may make a career out of rather than just getting workforce credits sitting in a classroom.

“We’re not talking about jobs at a fast-food place,” said Adam Barton, Eastern Hancock High School principal.

District officials want students to start getting hands-on experience in a professional job setting – one that could lead to a real career offering students a taste for where they are headed next.

Barton and George Philhower, superintendent of Eastern Hancock schools, met with all their seniors around Thanksgiving and found out what future plans the upperclassmen had once they graduate.

About that same time, officials from Ninestar, the Hancock County Government Office, the Assessor’s Office, the Auditor’s Office, the Surveyor’s Office, the Recorder’s Office, and most recently Hancock Regional Hospital expressed interest in getting high school students internships and summer jobs.

“Many of these offices and businesses will be having openings in the coming years, and it’s a great way for them to introduce career possibilities to our students,” Barton said.

Other businesses are coming on board and being progressive, trying to get students into the door right out of high school, Barton added. Many businesses are offering training and paying for certifications and specialized classes with the hopes of a high school student finding a job with the business, something they’ll do for the next several decades.

“Some of the electrical companies and others are trying to build a farm system for future employment,” Barton said. “It’s a great recruiting tactic for them, and it gives our kids an opportunity to see if they like the work.”

Susan Bodkins, the county surveyor, was thrilled to have Moss join her team this semester. She noted they’ve always had student employees help out in the summer, but said it was getting harder to get the students to commit. Katie Molinder, the county assessor, suggested reaching out to county high schools to get more local school students involved in county government.

“She sort of got us going with this and I said, ‘Yes, I would be interested’ because if we can get some young kids working in our office maybe they’ll stick around,” Bodkin said.

It’s been a double blessing for the surveyor’s office, having Moss on board learning the ropes during the school year and then giving him an opportunity to work through the summer before he heads to college,” Bodkin said.

“A lot of kids don’t know what really happens in local government. We have inside and outside work, so Logan has had a chance to learn a lot,” Bodkin said. “He’s gotten a feel for everything we do.”

Moss agrees.

Getting the hands-on work at a county government office has been a great opportunity to learn about how things work, and it is giving him some direction for his future.

“The people at Eastern Hancock are helping us figure out what we want to achieve and giving us a path to do that,” Moss said.

There is a chance Moss will become a surveyor after college he said, a field of business he would have not known about had school and county officials not stepped up and worked together to share that work experience with a high school student.

“At first, it was something I was just interested in,” Moss said. “But now it’s a career I’m really considering because of how much I am enjoying it.”

Barton noted they’ve already talked with their underclassmen to figure out what fields students might be interested in, breaking them into groups such as medical, agriculture, technical and business and then providing them real work experience to see if the field is right for them.

“What I really like about this is, instead of having a career day where all 400 of our kids might listen to a speaker they may not even be interested in, we now have a focused list of our students and can help them find out information in the fields they are really interested in,” Barton said.