PennDOT's Crawford County office's participation in a statewide program gives students a chance to dip their toes into a career before stepping fully into the workforce.
The county is one of two in District 1 that participates in the
School To Employment at PennDOT (STEP) program — joining Venango County. In Crawford County's maintenance office, four students from Crawford County Career and Technical Center are finishing their senior year working alongside state employees in a cooperative educational experience.
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Three of the students assist with work in the garage and in the field. They are Nate Sorger, a welding student of Maplewood High School; Garrett Boylan, a diesel student of Cambridge Springs High School; and Chad Jones, a carpentry student of Conneaut Area High School. Grace Csiky of Conneaut Area High School works as an administrative assistant in the county office.
The yearlong program lasts from July 1, 2019, until June 30, 2020, with students working part-time hours. The students still attend classes while working and are expected to maintain a high grade point average while finishing their final year of high school. The classroom work is designed to reinforce the skills learned on the job, giving the students an all-around learning experience.
"I have really enjoyed my work experience here," Csiky said. "The ladies in the office with me have supported me and helped prepare me for my future career."
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According to Bonnie Stein, cooperative education coordinator for Crawford County Career and Technical Center, the STEP Program provides five key advantages for the teens:
- Earn while they learn;
- Receive school credits for working;
- Develop good work habits;
- Learn life skills; and
- Obtain employment in the local community.
Aaron Fox, Crawford County maintenance manager, sees the benefits of the STEP program for both the students and the department. He says the garage and office staff really value the assistance the students give.
"This program is a perfect 'step' from the classroom to the workforce," he said. In the past five years, the Crawford County Maintenance Office has hired three STEP graduates into full-time positions.
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