CHARLOTTESVILLE — Eastern Hancock students will soon have the opportunity to learn potential career skills through NineStar Connect. The school corporation and the utility cooperative are partnering to offer high school seniors potential paid positions that would teach them about jobs in the technology sector.

Eastern Hancock Superintendent George Philhower said the idea to partner with NineStar came out of conversations with students themselves. The superintendent and high school principal meet each year to discuss career goals with every graduating senior, whether they are going to college, joining the military or entering the workforce.

“We’re a small enough school that we can work with individual kids to make sure they get their needs met for their next steps,” Philhower said.

High school Principal Adam Barton said the corporation looks for opportunities to help students who are not college-bound prepare for their careers after graduation.

“NineStar has stepped up to help us create some of those opportunities for our students,” Barton said.

Some students will be paired for job experiences at NineStar after graduation, including several who are graduating early. Others will split time between classes and work experience as part of the school corporation’s workforce program.

Positions that the students could learn about include fiber technician, electric groundman, geographic information systems technician and IT staff. Thirteen students were identified as potential participants, Philhower said. The program will begin this winter.

Philhower said the opportunity to work with NineStar will help students blend their education and the practical training they’ll need for their future careers.

“For our students, I think it’s important that we work to blur the lines between their high school experience and whatever comes next,” he said.

Ross Ferson, the chief technology officer at NineStar, said the company believes in hiring employees with good attitudes and training them in specific skills, and local high school students could be an example of that.

“Just like everybody else, especially in the tech industry, you’re always looking for talent,” Ferson said.

Early in December, the Eastern Hancock students will visit the NineStar campus to learn more about the different areas of business. They will then be interviewed for potential paid positions that could also help them earn high school credit.

“It’s a way for them to learn some skills, make some money, and learn a little about what they like and don’t like,” Ferson said.

Ferson said the company wants to be a good community partner and hopes to continue the program in future years if this initial pilot is successful.

“We want to make this a long-term thing,” he said.

Barton said Eastern Hancock will continue to form partnerships with other local employers that would suit the career goals its students are aiming for after graduation.

“We are more than excited to make connections with other companies,” he said.
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