#688 – Program Makes Students Aware of Local Careers

Posted on | The Agurban

Last week we shared an update on the CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) program. We recently learned of another somewhat local program that shows great promise in their efforts to keep their young people in their communities after graduation from high school.

Program Makes Students Aware of Local Careers
by Dave Taylor, Tribune-Star, May 22, 2018

Businesses and schools in two Illinois counties want to make sure students know about career opportunities in their own back yard and get the skills needed to fill the positions.

The ECCEL Academy, pronounced “Ex-cel” and standing for Edgar Clark Career Exploration and Leadership, will initially focus on high school students, but organizers also want to later include fifth- through eighth-graders.

“Everybody’s looking for skilled workers,” said Terry Elston, a member of the Paris Economic Development Corp. board. Eccel Academy will help fill that need while exposing students to options they may not have otherwise considered, he said.

A major concern for educators, said Kevin Ross, superintendent of Marshall Community Schools, “is making sure kids get connected beyond high school. … The best thing we can do is have lots of experiences for students.”

Schools must work to find where students’ talents lie so they can be better prepared for their future, he said.

“We want them to know there are lots of opportunities in Edgar and Clark counties,”

Businesses nationwide are struggling to fill positions and, while state and federal governments have taken note, “this has got to be solved at the local level,” Elston said.

“Most of the students that are coming out of high school are not aware of all the opportunities that we have in the two counties,” Elston said. “They’re not aware of what our industries do.”

Eye-opening examples, he said, include North American Lighting in Paris making products for such upscale autos as Lexus and Lincoln;, TRW in Marshall producing cameras for hands-free driving in the Cadillac CT 6; and the Paris Doncasters plant working on Rolls Royce aircraft engines.

In recent years, job skills have been a growing focus for the Economic Development Corp., and the organization already takes students on plant tours to see that “manufacturing is completely different than what they probably think it is,” he said.

In addition to more than 1,300 manufacturing jobs in Paris, North American Lighting has another 400 positions at its corporate headquarters, and Yargus Manufacturing in Marshall produces agricultural equipment for use internationally.

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” Elston said. “We can’t afford to have [students] move away to see if [they] can find that somewhere else when we already have those opportunities right here.”

Students will visit numerous local businesses each year, and business representatives will visit schools to inform students abut what they do, developers said.

More than 1,700 students at the counties’ seven high schools will be exposed to the program. Up to 25 students will be selected for this fall’s first class of the academy, patterned after the Networks Scholars program at Indiana State University. Students will dress in business attire, meet for 90 minutes each day at a local business or the program’s home base in Kansas, Illinois. The academy will promote goal-setting, teamwork, community outreach, accountability and leadership development.

Participants will receive dual credit for industrial safety and education to careers classes at Lake Land College in Mattoon with the potential for more offerings in the future. They will also attend the Global Leadership Summit in Terre Haute in August and the Ethics Conference at Indiana State in April 2019.

ECCEL Academy is funded by individuals, businesses, community organizations and local foundations.

Best of success to Edgar and Clark Counties! What a great program!