For the past two years, Union High School has been improving its efforts to better prepare students who don’t plan on attending college for life after high school.
One way the high school has beefed up its services to students who plan on heading straight into a career after graduation is by introducing them to possible employers before they earn their diploma.
During lunch shifts at the high school where typically colleges visit in search of students to lure toward higher education, area businesses have also started searching for future employees.
Assistant Principal Dan Kania, who works on curriculum at the high school, said giving students who don’t plan on attending college more opportunities before they graduate has increasingly become a focus for the school.
“We want kids to understand that there are jobs they can take straight out of high school that can put them on the path that leads them to a financially secure future and still leave the option for college if they change their mind,” Kania said. “They have choices and still will have the opportunity to drive toward the things they are passionate about later.”
Area companies like Silgan Plastic Food Containers, located just down the street from the high school, visit during lunch hours in hopes of students approaching their booth and possibly finding a career.
Kania said the hope is that students who aren’t planning on continuing their education find that they can start their career in town, which he said bolsters the area community while helping students find their future. He said many students aren’t ever made aware of the many opportunities in Union and the surrounding area.
“Students don’t realize these businesses are in the community. When they realize they don’t need to leave Union to design robots or work on aircraft parts it really opens up their eyes up to possibilities they didn’t think were possible in their community,” he said.
In some cases, the businesses that come to the high school offer to pay for employee’s higher education as they work. Kania said this gives graduates an option to return to school if they choose to later.
He said all of those opportunities add up to a beneficial interaction between area businesses and the school district. As Union graduates stay in the area and work to bolster the city’s economy, students who don’t plan to attend college also get a wide range of opportunities before they leave UHS.
“It’s really two fold. This is helping out our community and making sure they have access to a labor force and, also, especially when we have career providers come, gives kids an opportunity to consider something they never thought could be a possibility,” Kania said.
With unemployment in Union at a low, 3.5 percent, more businesses are looking for employees. Kania said because of that more area businesses have been reaching out to the district in hopes of visiting UHS lunch hours.
The effort isn’t from the school district and businesses alone, though. The city of Union also recently partnered with East Central College, the Union School District and the Union Area Chamber of Commerce to create more pipelines for companies and students.
“One of the things that we’re doing is trying to create a pipeline for high school students who are recent or future graduates, so that they are being made aware of the opportunities available for them if they’re entering the workforce,” said Assistant City Administrator James Schmieder.
The city and high school hosted a joint career fair in November, in hopes of filling some of the vacant roles in Union’s job-rich environment.
Kania said the lunch time visits and programs like Pathways to Success give students who aren’t going to college a better chance at success in the long run.
“Businesses have been proactive. We’re all trying to work together to build a better bridge for students and enlighten ourselves in the process of getting students a better career,” Kania said.