Article: Real-life work experiences pay off for Tolles students

Real-life work experiences pay off for Tolles students

It’s not unusual for high school students to hold down jobs. Jobs in their fields of study, however, can be a bit harder to come by. Tolles Career & Technical Center students have the opportunity to do just that— at an incredible economic impact to surrounding communities.

“Students who meet the eligibility criteria can be placed with employers and receive paychecks and grades at the same time,” said Maggie Gates, school counselor and cooperative advanced placement coordinator. “These students can use  part of the school day for these opportunities.”

During the 2013-2014 school year, Tolles students worked more than 3,479.35 hours at an average wage of $9.13, earning a gross of $33,283.70. Not all students who worked were paid, and some students received well above the average wage.

“By placing students in jobs and by placing them in higher wage jobs, there’s a greater impact to the community,” Gates said. “Those dollars turn back over in our local community.”

More important, students are gaining real-world skills that reinforce classroom learning. Engineering Technology student Phillip Seidenstricker is a paid intern at Autotool, where he is gaining hands-on knowledge to become a mechanical engineer. While he’s using 3D modeling software to help design jigs for automotive customers, he’s also building essential soft skills like understanding workflow, communicating with team members, and troubleshooting issues.

“Instead of working on my own little project, I am working with everyone on a project. There are set deadlines, and it’s more busy than in a classroom because you have to get more done in a short amount of time,” he said.

Seidenstricker is one of several Tolles students who are gaining applicable career experience at Autotool.

“We expose students to the latest in advanced manufacturing to make them aware of what’s out there and the potential skill sets needed, which helps them make an informed decision between building their career in advanced manufacturing or continuing on the education path,” said Bassam Homsi, president of Autotool. “As we expand and hire, providing internships not only gives the students invaluable experience, it also allows us and the students to consider a permanent position at Autotool.”

Gates said the school maintains close relationships with industry partners to create these win-win opportunities for both students and businesses.

“Our students apply the skills and knowledge gained at Tolles in real-world applications,” Gates said. “And our partners get entry-level employees who are already trained in the industry.”

Mitchell Davis, a 2014 graduate of the Power Sports Diesel program, worked as an assistant mechanic at the Muirfield Village Golf Course seven days a week during the school year. His responsibilities included everything from daily maintenance to repairing equipment. The job turned into full-time employment after he graduated in May.

“What started as a hobby with motorcycles transitioned into having a full-time job, putting my skills to use,” he said. “You’re getting paid for getting credits.”

Art Design and Communications student Austin Fraley also got a head start on his career through an internship with comic book artist Sean Forney. While his former classmates at Darby High School were sitting in the classroom, Fraley was learning the tools and trade of comic book art from a professional in the field. By the time he graduated, Fraley had logged more than 177 hours as an intern—and earned credit as production assist on “Scarlett Huntress,” a comic book published by Savage Mind Comic Studio this past spring.

“Tolles gave me the time to practice my skills. This opportunity would not have happened anywhere else. I wouldn’t have had the time away to work on all of this,” he said

It’s not a free pass, Gates emphasized. Students are graded for their time with employers. “The diploma comes first for our students, and our employers value that,” she said. “But I encourage job placement for those students who are eligible. Any time that we can put students in the position to further develop their skills, it benefits the entire community.”

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