EducationWorld spotlights a school-to-career model that’s working at South Fayette, a public high school that serves 650 students and is located in McDonald, PA. The Career Education Program serves kids from 8ththrough 12thgrades, leading them through a variety of activities that are tied to curriculum—everything from career exploration to job shadowing to career immersion (project-based learning). We asked three students to describe how this comprehensive program helped them.
Brian Schuchert - Freshman
Ryan Eberle – Sophomore
Jessica Barton - Junior
EW: What are your thoughts on South Fayette’s Career Education Program?
Eberle: I prefer to learn by doing instead of by learning the theory and stuff like that, so the project-based learning makes a lot of sense to me, and I learn a lot more from it than I do in a day of classes.
|South Fayette High School in Western Pennsylvania has recieved signifiant praise for its career education program.|
Barton: The project-based learning really gives you a sense of when you’ll use what you learn. Especially in my internship, going in every day and seeing that I pretty much did the same thing and applying what I did in all my tech classes, I was like, ‘Wow, this is actually cool.’
Schuchert: I basically like the idea of the hands-on experience. I was with the All-Clad team, and they gave us a problem to work on with their cookware. It was a great experience to use the problem-solving techniques to figure out what the proper solution was. Also, especially presenting it to their company was a great feeling.
EW: The first time you went out to meet with a business, was it intimidating?
Schuchert: This is my first time doing one of these projects, and I was intimidated by the conference table when I went to present our project. But other than that, the people I worked with were very nice, and they wanted me to have a good experience, so I was almost completely comfortable.
Barton: I’m pretty sure that I can speak for all of us when I say that it was a refreshingly different environment because they treated us more like equals than like kids. I mean the person from All-Clad was real casual with everyone; he treated us like we were pretty much his equals. He didn’t talk down to us or anything. The same with the UPMC [University of Pittsburgh Medical Center] Web page people. They treated us like we were coworkers. And at my internship, they actually asked me for input, and I helped them with different things for prototypes that are actually being implemented next year for toys.
Eberle: This is my first year with All-Clad, and it was kind of a difficult thing going from being in school to going into the business world and talking with executives. That was kind of jump for me. I think it was a great experience overall, though.
EW: Has your experience in the program so far verified what you thought you wanted to do post-graduation or post-college, or has it opened your eyes to a different path?
Schuchert: Going into high school, I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do after school, and yes, these projects have verified that I do want to work in the creative field.
Barton: For the most part, teachers say that [in your internship] you shouldn’t expect to find what you’ll want to do, you’re more likely to find what you don’t want to do. With my internship, which is also where I shadowed in the 10thgrade, that was kind of a verification for myself that I wanted to do something in robotics. That is what I want to study in college and really go into.
Eberle: When I came into high school, I basically wanted to be an engineer, but I wasn’t sure what engineers did. But working with the All-Clad people, they pretty much said, ‘This is what an engineer does.’ They showed me how they have to present what they do to the board of executives or the company president. So I got a sense of what an engineer does, and it verified that I’d still like to pursue engineering as a future career.
EW: Has this experience lessened any anxiety about prepping for college or other post-graduation plans?
Schuchert: It definitely helps. I mean, you’re still going to be nervous, no matter what. But it helps you to be better prepared and know what you’re up against.
Barton: Considering students that have gone on from this program, one of the kids who went through the first experience with All-Clad is now a sophomore at Penn State. He put the All-Clad experience on his resume, and a bunch of companies have approached him and asked him about it and offered him jobs on the spot. So [participation in the program is] going to give us an advantage.
EW: What advice would you give to students who may not have the same opportunities to work with businesses?
Barton: I would say, it’s really, really worth it because it does help. It may not be the most popular thing for a teenager because it’s after school, it’s weeknights, you’d rather have a life. But if you are really committed to what you want to do in life, it’s going to set you up really well.
Talk to your guidance counselor, talk with a local business, or go to a career fair. That’s how I got my internship. I went to a career fair and asked if I could do a shadow, and they said no, but I could do an internship.
Eberle: I think the most important thing is building relationships. In the business world, from what I’ve heard, you basically go where the people you’re connected to are.