By Amanda Browning Daily News
Greensburg Daily News
---- — GREENBURG — For many years, GECOM and Greensburg Community Schools have enjoyed a positive relationship in the community.
Often, GECOM has provided assistance to the school and community through volunteer personnel and monetary donations for school projects. Engineers and GECOM staff have attended career day events to let students know about the career opportunities right here in Greensburg.
In the last year, both groups decided to take that relationship to the next level, implementing a one-on-one undertaking to provide students with real work experience. Establishing a strong vocational program at all Indiana high schools has become a priority for the state because of the need for effective vocational training.
Greensburg High School (GHS) is currently in the process of expanding its vocational area by more than 10,000 square feet, in addition to renovating another 10,000 square feet of existing space.
Once finished, this area will accommodate expanded programs in Buildings and Trade, Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering, Vocational Ag, Drafting, CAD, and internship opportunities in manufacturing through the Interdisciplinary Cooperative Education (ICE) program, according to a press release provided by Greensburg Community Schools Superintendent Tom Hunter.
The area will be focused on hand-on training opportunities that will enable the students of GHS to be competitive in the global manufacturing and tradesmen job marketplace.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for our students and we couldn’t be more appreciative to GECOM for their willingness to invest in our students, not just in money, but their time and commitment to the training and their patience,” said Susan Burbrink, ICE coordinator for GHS.
After months of planning, GECOM and Greensburg High School have begun a new program that allows students with applicable interests and educational backgrounds to do a type of work study internship at GECOM. According to Superintendent Hunter, putting students in a real factory setting and allowing them to earn real work experience is not a common practice in many high schools.
“GECOM took a leap of faith with this program, offering their money, time and faith in our students.” Hunter said.
GECOM officials were speaking with GHS staff about scholarships when Hunter told GECOM that he’d like opportunities for the students. From there, both sides came together to form the work study internship program. After lots of talking, planning and hard work, the plans became a reality due to the efforts of everyone involved.
GECOM is offering six internships to GHS seniors this year in the areas of Tool and Die, Quality Test Lab, Metal Stamping Maintenance, Assembly Maintenance, Continuous Improvement, and Facilities Maintenance. Factory closures at other sites have allowed GECOM to donate over $100,000 in equipment to GHS, further allowing students to hone their skills. GECOM and GHS are also examining scholarship opportunities to qualified students in engineering that will commit to coming back and working in the community at GECOM. This is to help with the “brain drain” this area has been experiencing with young people moving to other areas after college instead of coming back to GREENSBURG, which results in a shortage of qualified workers.
Six GHS seniors have been working at GECOM for two weeks, one of which was all safety training. The students, Coy Chaney, Zackary Couch, Ethan Sebastian, Alex Simmermeyer, Jake Hellmich and Eric Kroger, were matched with GECOM because of classes they’d taken in related areas and an interest in manufacturing. GECOM is also providing personnel to serve on the Planning Council for Vocational Education at GHS. When asked whether they were interested in the manufacturing field before the internship at GECOM, all six seniors said yes, proving they were well-matched for the program.
“I couldn’t be more pleased. This is something that Greensburg High School, Principal Chapple and myself have wanted for a long time. We couldn’t be happier,” Hunter said.
Coy Chaney, who is working in the facility maintenance area said, “I’m enjoying it so far. I’m getting lots of hours and the pay is great.”
When asked how he liked the internship, Zackary Couch, of the tool and test lab, said, “It’s great. I’m learning a lot.”
Ethan Sebastian is working in the area of continuous improvement. “It’s great. I like that we’re improving efficiency on the lines,” he said.
When asked about the program, Alex Simmermeyer, who is working in the tool and die section, said, “I like it a lot and I learn new stuff all the time.”
Jake Hellmich is in the maintenance department and said he wants to go into engineering after high school. “I like it a lot. I’m learning a bunch of new and important things that will help me in the future.”
Eric Kroger, of the maintenance department, said, “My favorite part is turning wrenches.”
Each student was matched with a mentor for their internship. The mentors are Tom Hinton, Jerry Auger, Dick Schmidt, Jerry Creech, James Ogden and Chris Ison. Also involved in the program are GECOM Human Resources Manager Amy Bray, Vice President of Administration and Engineering Jeff Wright, Vice President of Operations Allen Downs and GECOM president Tsuguo Hoshikawa.
On the GHS side, Tammy Williams, Director of Curriculum Instruction, Superintendent Tom Hunter, GHS Principal Phil Chapple, Guidance Director Sue Affenberg and ICE Coordinator Susan Burbrink were integral in the formation of the internship program.
“Being here for 26 years, we truly appreciate the community and support from local people. GECOM is happy to give back and help the next generation. In this way, we can grow together,” said Hoshikawa.
The internship collaboration between GECOM and GHS seems to be off to a great start, with students enjoying the work and gaining real work experience. With luck, the program, and the relationship between GECOM and GHS will continue for a long time to come.
Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004