CEO program expands in third year

VWAEDC, Workforce  |  October 2, 2018

CEO program expands in third year

Internship benefits are two-fold: individuals gain practical experience in a career that compliments their skills and piques their interest, and employers have the opportunity to attract future employees.

The Career Education Opportunity program in Van Wert connects high school seniors with local companies. The result is a mutual awareness of local talent and existing professional opportunities.

The concept began at Van Wert High School two years ago and has expanded to all Van Wert County’s high schools this year. It gives interested seniors the ability to learn more extensively about a career, such as the day-to-day aspects of being an accountant, the duties of a firefighter, the expectations of a graphic designer, and much more. It also helps students develop the soft skills all employers seek. In the 2018-19 school year, 56 students and 30 companies are participating in the program.

Kerry Koontz is coordinator of CEO, which began with 17 students and 12 companies. He is a careers counselor at Van Wert High School and understands local companies are expecting a large number of retirements in the near future and good-paying jobs will go unfilled if the young workforce leaves for college and does not return to the community. He also wants students to learn many quality jobs don’t require a four-year college degree.

“As a high school counselor, I witnessed students feeling the pressure to attend college. There is a belief that if a student doesn’t attend a career center, then he/she must attend college,” Koontz said. “I consistently ask students three questions: what do you want to do, what does it take to pursue that career and what should you be doing right now to prepare yourself for your future? As such, students become more efficient in choosing the path best for them.”

Student interns report to the assigned business 75-80 minutes each day during a semester. The time of the day varies and is coordinated with the student’s schedule and what works best for the business.

Some students gain reinforcement about their career choice. The CEO program has led several students to become STNAs and another earned a real estate licensure.

Other interns benefit from learning what they don’t want to do in the future.

Koontz said one student intern was placed in a setting to learn more about physical therapy.

After a period of time, she changed her career decision and is now attending a four-year college majoring in graphic design.

The program has also led to summer, part-time and full-time positions for some students, Koontz added.

Stacy Adam, Executive Director of the Van Wert Area Economic Development Corporation, said connecting the next generation of employees with the region’s employers is a tremendous asset.

“It is programs like CEO that can give Van Wert an edge when it comes to meeting workforce demands of existing and potential companies,” she said.
Van Wert County Career Education Opportunity
School Year Students Participating Companies Participating
2016-17 17 12
2017-18 34 22
2018-19 56 30

Blog Categories

VWAEDC | Workforce