Students Get Real World Experience with Work-Based Learning

As graduation nears, students around the country are thinking about what comes next. Whether it’s college, vocational school or jumping straight into the workforce, these next few years will be spent exploring career opportunities. But thanks to the Work-Based Learning Program at North Central High School, Panthers are graduating with years of real-world work experience already under their belt.

The Work-Based Learning Program at NCHS gives students the opportunity to explore different careers and gain hands-on experience while still in high school through internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing and more. The positions available to students aren’t your typical high school part-time jobs. Instead of scooping ice cream or flipping burgers, NCHS students are working in healthcare, IT support and business operations.

“Our main goal is to help students leave North Central ready for what’s next in their lives,” said Shannon Fowler, Work-Based Learning Coordinator at North Central. “We’re focused on meaningful positions where they’re learning career-driving experiences.” 

NCHS seniors Laila Collins (left) and Anari Robinson at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital

Thanks to our generous donors, the Foundation is able to provide ongoing funding for this crucial programming through the Annual Fund, Morrie and Jan Maurer Endowment to Further Promising Careers and designated gifts. Beyond financial support, the Foundation also connects the program with North Central alumni eager to share their career experiences and advice. This has included recruiting alumni to participate in career fairs, lunch-and-learns and even a large career expo.

NCHS alum Adrianna Moehle speaking on manufacturing at the Career Expo

“Alumni have been some of our biggest partners,” said Charlene Williams, Work-Based Learning Coordinator at North Central High School. “[The career expo] was awesome because we had all our 11th and 12th grade students come through like a speed-dating type of thing where they could choose the industry they wanted to hear more about. The alumni were so excited to come in and share information about their career fields.”

“Alumni support has just been incredible,” echoed Ms. Fowler. “Those connections have been invaluable.”

One of the hallmarks of North Central’s Work-Based Learning Program is The Modern Apprenticeship Program, or MAP. MAP is a three-year program through EmployIndy that begins during a student’s junior year. While in MAP, students have the opportunity to explore in-demand career pathways while earning a paycheck and, in some instances, college credits or certifications.

“I decided to do MAP because I wanted to get more information about my field,” said Anari Robinson, a senior at NCHS and patient care technician at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital. “Since I want to be in nursing, I wanted to make sure this is what I wanted to do.”

“It’s kind of the best job you can have in high school,” said Ben Klein, a junior at NCHS and Project Coordinator at Conexus. “You get experience, you get paid and it’s good on a resume.”

And students aren’t the only ones benefitting from work-based learning. Employers are also feeling the impact.

“[Work-based learning] opens up another avenue to employers who are needing employees, but maybe hadn’t considered students that had just graduated high school,” said Ms. Fowler. “There’s so many employers that just assume, ‘Hey, I’ve got to have someone with a college degree.’ By having students graduating from high school already prepared to go into the workforce, it’s an opportunity for employers to think more broadly about their hiring practices.”

“Employers say employability skills are the biggest hurdle for new employees, because they can teach you how to do the job, but they can’t teach those skills,” said Ms. Williams. “Our students are getting that experience.”

For those wondering if work-based learning is right for them, students currently involved in the program have a few words of advice. 

“Just take a chance on it,” said senior Xavier Garrett, who is working in IT Support at Republic Airways. “Don’t let other people persuade you not to do it just because it seems uninteresting to them.”

Work-Based Learning Coordinators Shannon Fowler (left) and Charlene Williams

“Stay open-minded,” said senior Laila Collins and patient care tech at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital. “You’re learning from it, so I would say take that chance.”

Ms. Fowler and Ms. Williams are currently recruiting NCHS sophomores for the next cohort of the Modern Apprenticeship Program. Interested students should contact them at [email protected] or [email protected].

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Looking for ways you can support Washington Township Schools? Donate today and help our foundation support programs to enhance the educational experience for our students and provide resources for MSDWT teachers and staff. 

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