Students get taste of work through school program
Some Lansing High School seniors are getting a head start in the working world through the On the Job Training class.
Seniors such as Kristin Gutshall, who had only a few credits left to take in order to graduate, decided to pursue an opportunity to learn about the world outside school instead of taking unnecessary classes.
"I didn't need to go all day or need to take all of the classes, so this is better than sitting at school and doing nothing," Gutshall said.
The On the Job Training class allows students to attend only a half-day of school so that they can work at least three hours a day at a job that will provide them skills that they may need in the future. The program has been offered at the high school for more than 15 years, but it was recently revised in order to qualify for a grant. Now, students must work in an office setting.
Program coordinator Jeanne Hund or the students themselves find office-related jobs that allow them to develop skills that could help them in the work force.
Students can either work for a semester of for a full year. They work at area businesses such as Armed Forces Bank and Brian Kern's appraisal office. Although businesses are not required to pay the students, all of the participants this year get paid just as they would at any other job.
Because Gutshall was interested in graphic design, in August she chose a job at First City Photo in Leavenworth working for Debra Bates-Lamborn, a Lansing- and Leavenworth-area native.
"The only experience we had when I had when I was their age was working in fast food," Bates-Lamborn said. "This gives them a head start."
Having grown up in the area makes it even more rewarding to give students more work experience through the program, she said.
"I don't look at it like I'm employing them, but I want to help train them so they could potentially be someone I could train to stay with me for 10 years," Bates-Lamborn said.
The participants go to school for the first five hours of the school day, the last of which is an office education class taught by business teacher Hund. In the class, they work on office skills such as filing skills.
Lansing's participation in the class helps the school get funding to upgrade equipment. It serves as the capstone class of the business curriculum for the high school.
Hund regularly checks with the students' employers through a monthly evaluation and a weekly progress report, materials that also are used to grade the students. She works with students on ways they can be better employees. She said this really helps them become more mature, which is one of the benefits of their work experience.
"It's like they just grow up so much," Hund said.
In addition to acquiring office skills, Gutshall has had a unique experience at First City Photo because she has learned to develop pictures manually, an art less common in the digital age. Working there has helped her to utilize creative energy while developing confidence in her skills and suitability to the working world, Bates-Lamborn said.
Working during the day increases the amount of time students can spend at their jobs, giving them the opportunity to invest more in their experience. Gutshall has taken advantage of her time by working more hours than are required.
"It's even better because instead of working 11 to 15 hours, she can work more than 20 hours a week," Bates-Lamborn said.
Many of the students in the program graduated at semester, but Gutshall will graduate in May. Gutshall hasn't decided if a career in photography is something she will pursue next year at college, but her job at First City Photo has been helpful in exposing her to the idea.
Until then, Gutshall plans to lead an active life in the working world and as a student, going to sporting events and hanging out with her friends. The only difference is that she will have more professional experience and a little more cash in the bank for her future.