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High school connecting students with workplace
By MIKE FERGUSON
Of the Baker City Herald
Toni Zikmund's just paying back a wonderful opportunity she herself had at Baker High School a decade ago.
The third-year business teacher once took a class at her alma mater BHS where she got to work in the Silven, Schmeits law office 15 hours per week doing filing and word processing chores for minimum wage.
"It was my first real job," she recalled. "It taught me the importance of reliability and punctuality. It was a positive experience in my life, and I want them to have it, too."
"Them" refers to the 14 students enrolled this semester in her class called Business Procedures. After they've learned the how-to of word processing, resume creation and other office skills, the real fun for students will begin next semester even sooner for some.
That's when students are scheduled to develop their skills in real-life job settings.
Erin Williams, for example, is set to begin work today with the U.S. Forest Service's Dave Swanson and Charlie Johnson, for whom she will do everything from inputting data to mounting plants in a book.
"I'm really interested in working for the Forest Service someday," she said. "I've taken classes in computers, digital and video editing, and web design. I hope to use some of those skills there."
It's not only business students who are placed in the various workplace settings. Mindi Vaughan's Junior Discovery students, for example, are finding opportunities everywhere from Baker City Pill Box to Farm Credit Services.
As juniors, students take the Discovery class to explore post-high school careers. Even as early as their freshman year, students must take a Workplace class, where they begin to research which jobs best match their interests.
"Often after just a little research, they'll change their field of interest," Zikmund said. "One girl told me, I used to know what I wanted to be, but now I'm confused.' It's broadening their horizons."
Together with counselor Steve Chambers, Zikmund and Vaughan are helping to write the school's Certificate of Advanced Mastery program, a state-required program that will be fully in place in two years.
The CAM diploma designation which both teachers say will be coveted by students and sought after by employers will rely heavily on workplace learning experiences.
Area businesses, non-profits or government agencies who can offer students such workplace opportunities are encouraged to call Zikmund at 524-2661, Vaughan at 524-2663, or the counseling office, 524-2600.
Chambers said he thinks that students who have workplace opportunities college bound or not will receive the broadest high school education possible.
"It connects students with work opportunities as well as almost any other high school educational opportunity can," he said.
Added Vaughan: "We keep telling students we want them to continue their education. This makes the real world seem more relevant to them."