Several County educators head west for Career Awareness Conference

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George Philhower, EH superindendent

HANCOCK COUNTY — Twenty different Hancock County educators from the Eastern Hancock and Southern Hancock school districts are heading to San Diego this week for a three-day conference on career awareness for students.

Officials say the trip will help them develop future classes and programs for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The goal is to help kids start focusing on possible career choices at a younger age.

The conference, World of Work Summit — Pathways For All, is slated for Thursday through Saturday in San Diego, California.

Eastern Hancock Superintendent George Philhower will be one of the guest speakers at the educational summit after attending a conference on the subject there last year. He’s taking a handful of educators, six total, as they learn about the importance of adding more career-focused classes to their curriculum.

“One of the things I saw last year was a school district out there doing some really cool things for students,” Philhower said. “We want to make sure every kid knows about as many careers as possible by the time they graduate.”

The trip is costing over $2,100 per person and is being paid for by the state’s Explore, Engage, and Experience (3E) Grant. The 3E Grant long-term goal is to provide career exploration opportunities for students in pre-K, elementary and middle school, and hands-on work experiences for high school students.

“We’re trying to get career awareness integrated into our curriculum over the next few years in grades K-8th,” SH curriculum director Miles Hercamp said.

During the trip, local county educators will visit the Cajon Valley Union School District, who helped put the conference together, where attendees will be able see human and career development based on a deep understanding of each individual student.

The San Diego school district has already implemented a career focus program for younger students stating in elementary school. To achieve this, Cajon Valley learners move through four World of Work experiences: exploration, simulation, meet a pro, and practice.

“They go through six different career opportunities in grades K through 8th grade giving students some career awareness,” Hercamp said. “That’s six different ones in kindergarten, six different ones in first grade; six different ones in second grade and so on, and so on.”

Hercamp noted Southern Hancock officials would like to do the same thing, but only showcase two to four different career opportunities in each grade as they start adding the program.

“This conference will give us a better idea about the program and help us set this up,” Hercamp said. “It’s one of the main reasons we applied for the 3E grant so we’d have the money to set this up and integrate career awareness into the curriculum.”

The program is all part of the state’s mandate to have students graduate Indiana high schools and be college or career ready.

Hercamp noted that, thanks to the grant monies, they’re able to send 14 people to the three-day conference this week.

“All of the costs are paid for through the grant so it’s not coming out of our budget,” Hercamp said.

Philhower noted the district in San Diego does a great job of integrating career exploration into the classroom, K-12.

“What they are doing fits with a lot of the conversations we’ve been having about education here,” Philhower said. “In general, we know kids don’t have to know what they want to do with their life when they are 17, but we want to do a good job of helping them figure that out.”

After visiting the school district in San Diego last year, Philhower reached out to the superintendent there and asked to bring a team out this year to better learn of the district’s plan and strategies.

“It all came together at the same time we got the 3E grant which covered our money for the travel,” Philhower said.

That prompted officials in San Diego to put together the three-day conference allowing other school district officials from Indiana to attend.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Philhower said. “The superintendent from San Diego and I spoke together at a conference this fall and I agreed to help out at this conference coming up.”

Philhower noted they’re expecting at least 50 different educators from East Central Indiana to make the trip.

“My goal is to see some things other districts are doing with career awareness and then come back and have discussions, wrap our minds around it about what would that look like here in our district,” Philhower said.

Both Philhower and Hercamp noted it’s never too early to start engaging students about possible career opportunities so that by the time they are in junior high school they have a better understanding of what careers are out there.

“A kid would never want to be a doctor if they didn’t know what a doctor did,” Philhower said. “The other thing that is important in all of this, is educators can teach all the academic things needed through these type of classes.”