Darke County Economic Development recently hosted a job shadow week for students across the county. Two hundred high school juniors and seniors received first-hand experience with careers they are interested in. Not only is this an excellent opportunity for students to receive advice from adults in career fields they may want to pursue, but it also allows them to see the careers available in Darke County.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to see what they are interested in,” Denise Elsas, Workforce Specialist at DCED, said. “If it confirms it, that’s awesome, but maybe they realize, ‘hey this isn’t for me what else is out there.’
This year, 50 companies participated and offered students 300 job shadow opportunities. This program has had success throughout the years of students receiving a job after attending their job shadow, and DCED hopes to continue that success.
“We had everything,” Elsas said. “At Wayne Healthcare we had nursing to IT to accounting to Marketing, we have students who went to the Sheriff’s Department learning about corrections, students with Classic Carriers learning about being a CDL truck driver, students at Midmark learning about Welding. It really is across the board.”
One company that participated this year was Pepcon. Pepcon has participated in the job shadow week for five years. They show the students the different roles within the company, the equipment they use, and the jobs they can offer.
“We have had a lot of success stories from guys who worked here 30 years and have retired from here,” Matt Poeppelman, Vice President of Pepcon & Poeppelman Materials, said. “Anyone that I hire, my goal when I hire is that you willfully retire from here. We want to bring you on, challenge you, pay you fairly, bring you on as part of the team, and you enjoy the job enough that you retire from here.”
Pepcon enjoys being able to be a part of job shadow week. There is excitement about potential hires from Darke County, and the students bring a different perspective to the company.
“Getting a younger group in here, new thoughts and new ideas,” Poeppelman said. “We heavily recruit with the Darke County high schools to keep good kids working in the industry and in this area. Darke County has a very good workforce. There are kids who are willing to work, willing to show up on time, and willing to be hard workers. Having worked in other industries and other areas, that doesn’t exist everywhere.
Pepcon hired a student who was a part of last year’s job shadow week.
“Levi came in around the same time last year,” Poeppelman said. “He worked on a farm, didn’t want to work in a factory, didn’t think post-high school education was what he wanted to do; he wanted to jump into the workforce. I said these will be the jobs we will have in the spring after you graduate; give me a call in the spring if you are still interested, and we will talk again, and he did.”
Levi started working there after he graduated and has been there ever since.
The Pepcon job shadow and job shadows like it allowed students to see jobs in the county that don’t need a higher education after high school.
“Getting students out into industries they’re not familiar with or want to learn more about really allows them to make a better decision for their career path post-high school or helps them understand there are great careers that you don’t have to go to college for,” Todd Schilling, Career Connections Coordinator at DCED, said. “You can go right into the workforce and make a good, honest living with the potential to keep upscaling and learning more and progressing yourself to a higher wage.”
Another company that participated in the job shadow week was Wayne Healthcare. Wayne Healthcare hosted many opportunities for all kinds of roles in their hospital, from working as a healthcare professional to being a part of administration or marketing.
Bill Stall, an Occupational Therapist at Wayne Healthcare, was one of the people who offered to have students shadow him. He was excited to share his experiences.
“When they come in, we want to show them as much as we can of what we do,” Stall said. “It gives a lot of insight and experience in figuring out what to do with patients. I really like helping kids; it’s fun having them come in. I love teaching. It’s a really cool opportunity to have them come in and talk to us and see what we do. They are our future.”
Allison Muhlenkamp, a Franklin Monroe Junior, went to Wayne Healthcare to job shadow Occupational and Physical Therapy. She was glad to have this opportunity as it gave her a way to figure out what she wants to do for her career.
“It opens your eyes a bit,” Muhlenkamp said. “I feel like in the healthcare world, you see so many different challenges and aspects of it, like someone’s life. I think it’s great because I get to see that. That’s what I want to do. I want to improve their lives. This side of it allows you to see that and see the difference that they make.
Muhlenkamp also shared a bit more about what she learned and her favorite aspects of the jobs she shadowed.
“I’m a big people person, so I like interacting and visiting the patients,” Muhlenkamp said. “Listening to the therapist talk to their patients, it’s not all about how they’re doing physically, it’s also mentally and what’s going on in their lives. It’s not just that they are a patient; they are also a person. I like that part of it.”
The Job Shadow Week gives students real-world experiences in careers they may be interested in and want to pursue. Not only that, but it also shows them the great opportunities Darke County has that they might not know about.
“That’s the purpose of Job shadow week, for you to get out and be able to see what is out there and try it out before you commit to something,” Schilling said. I think that it’s important for kids this age to come out to any position and see if they are interested in it and want to move forward with it. We also do this to help our local companies in the county to tap into the pipeline of the emerging workforce. A lot of students don’t know the opportunities that are out there within Darke County.”
DCED’s job shadow week gives students a great opportunity to learn about careers they may be interested in. Whether they plan to go to college and get a higher education or if they want to go straight into the workforce, the job shadow week allowed students to get a better understanding of what they want to do with their future.