GREENFIELD — The responsibility of helping students figure out exactly what they are going to be doing after high school is something officials with the Eastern Hancock Community School District take seriously. It’s why they host multiple meetings each year trying to develop partnerships with local businesses to find out what kind of jobs are out there and what kind of skills need to be taught to prepare students.

During a luncheon event for community leaders and employee partners held at the Community Foundation of Hancock County’s new building, 971 W. U.S. 40, Greenfield late last week, superintendent George Philhower noted it’s like trying to put the pieces of a puzzle together, connecting students with future employers.

“Getting the kids and employers together requires many conversations,” Philhower said. “Our goal from this luncheon is for us to learn as much information from employers about what kind of employee they need as we can.”

The luncheon was structured more like a workshop where dozens of businesses gave district leaders feedback about what they do and what kind of employee they’re looking for. The information helps district leaders plan what kind of classes they need to offer students and what kind of internships they can set up for work-based learning opportunities.

Eastern Hancock principal Adam Barton said it’s interesting to see the shift in education as businesses are now driving what is being taught.

“Our jobs as educators is not just to prepare students academically, which we love to do, but we need to also give students work skills they can use for life,” he said.

District officials invited their student advisory council to attend. The students sat at tables with business owners, giving them a chance to engage with professionals and talk to them about their businesses. The district’s work-based learning coordinator, Diane Arellano, along with their community liaison specialist, Libby Manship, helped coordinate the luncheon and are vital to the district’s work based learning program.

“Something like this is huge for our district,” Arellano said. “We can see barriers taken down and permission being given, and that’s big because we are bringing what is relevant and happening in the real world into our classrooms and that changes things.”

Manship noted her job is to make sure employers understand they have a potential workforce with each graduating class because not all students head to college. Many, through internships, can earn certifications and college credits and possible jobs.

“I think employers are starting to see Eastern Hancock as a partner to help with their talent pipeline and also to see the students grow and develop in ways that will fit jobs the new workforce will have,” Manship said.

Manship, who started working with the district this year, said she’s impressed with Eastern Hancock’s desire to share all the information they gather with the county’s other three high schools. Representatives from the other districts were also present at the luncheon to meet business owners as well so they too can set up work-based learning opportunities for their students.

“Just in the short time we’ve taken on this big-picture approach, I’ve absolutely seen our kids start to get it,” Arellano said. “Getting to see what types of businesses are really out there is great but, not only does it help the students determine what they might want to do, it also helps them to see what they don’t want to do.”

Knowing what type of business truly attracts the interest of a student can help that student avoid wasting money on several college classes rather than waiting until college to start exploring a possible career. Plus, if a student finds something they really like and want to do after they graduate high school, they can gear their high school classes toward that profession.

Manship also noted employer jobs are changing rapidly as technology unfolds and getting high school students involved with chances for internships and part-time jobs in newer fields bodes well for their futures.

The goals for the luncheon were to expand their partnerships with businesses and strengthen the relationships with businesses they already have.