Field Trips to Local Industries Inform Teachers about Youth Job Opportunities

By Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance | | 8.23.22

Aspire has just wrapped up a successful summer of field trips to educate teachers and guidance counselors on youth job opportunities in Johnson County. Teachers are then able to speak more knowledgeably to their students about career paths after high school. And Aspire already is planning more field trips next year.

“Aspire hosted three field trips to educate teachers on what career opportunities exist in Johnson County,” explained Aspire Vice President of Economic Development Amanda Rubadue, CEcD. “We’re planning on broadening the scope of our program by hosting more field trips in 2023 to different industries.”

“We talked with employers about what type of skills/education they would like to see from these young candidates,” Jennifer Hollingshead, Aspire’s School to Work Specialist added. “Over and over, we heard that most employers are willing to train, and they are looking for candidates who have good communication and critical thinking skills and a customer-service mindset.”

Stephanie Amos, vice chancellor of the Ivy Tech Community College campus at Franklin, helped plan the field trips. Ivy Tech also sponsored them. “The trips were great. I was able to connect with high school teachers and a couple of counselors and showcase the programs we have at Ivy Tech for their student’s post-secondary,” Amos recalled. “We were also able to connect with local employers who are interested in creating workforce pipelines for both high school students and Ivy Tech students.”

“The outcome was for teachers and counselors to understand better the career opportunities in the fields of information technology, healthcare and life sciences, and manufacturing that exist right here in Johnson County,” Amos added. “This will give the teachers and counselors a better understanding of what exists locally to talk with their students on these career opportunities.”

Aubrei Teter, career pathways counselor at Central Nine Career Center in Greenwood, attended two of the tours. “We regularly share with students that businesses are looking for workers with a strong work ethic as well as strong skills in communication and customer service. This was certainly confirmed at multiple stops on the tours: companies can provide training to get new employees job-ready, but they really need candidates with the soft skills.

Teter added, “We’re better able to guide our students to consider best-fit options when we have relevant information through first-hand experience talking with employers and visiting local businesses. As students meet deadlines, communicate with staff members, learn to problem-solve, and present speeches in class, they are learning transferable soft skills that will benefit them in the world of work.”

“I was also impressed with the working environment at all our stops. It was evident that businesses invest in a clean and temperature-controlled environment for their employees,” Teter noted. “One big takeaway for me was how willing companies are to partner with schools to recruit potential candidates. The representatives from each of the companies were passionate about sharing with us all they have to offer and were excited that we were there for a visit.”

The teacher field trip program benefits both Aspire members and the community at large, Rubadue noted.

“We’re working to better connect our businesses to local schools through workforce pipeline projects such as virtual field trips, career path presentations at schools, the in-person teacher field trips just concluded, and more,” she noted. “Aspire is developing a variety of ways businesses can get involved.”

Likewise, the program impacts the community as well, Rubadue said. “Teachers have said that students aren’t aware of all the career opportunities available to them. Aspire plans to educate students on the careers they can have in Johnson County in order to retain them after high school or to encourage them to come back to the area after college.”

“Aspire is doubling down on workforce development because it’s a fifth of our five-year economic development strategic plan, and it’s what our companies and communities need right now,” Rubadue concluded. “There isn’t one solution to our workforce challenges, but initiatives like teacher field trips are one of the many activities that allow us to make incremental progress toward such a big goal.”

Aspire President and CEO Christian Maslowski agreed: “Magnifying and delivering robust education and workforce endeavors is a key goal of our strategic plan. We have a variety of strategies to achieving this end, and the teacher field trip is one of the most visible and successful. We are enthused and reinvigorated by the program’s achievements. And we plan to expand programs in this area through our new partnership with Earlywood Educational Services of Franklin to build the local K-12 talent pipeline for employers.”

Businesses interested in participating in next year’s field trips may contact Jennifer Hollingshead for information.