Tour familiarizes students with local careers

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Southridge High School junior Chloe Erwin, left, and her classmates, senior Brenda Figueroa, junior Alejandra Marroquin, junior Julie Calvillo, senior Camden Cooper, and senior Caleb Lechner listen during a tour with Bob LaMarche at Jasper Engines and Transmissions on Wednesday.


JASPER — The production floor at Jasper Engines & Transmissions was a bit more crowded than usual Wednesday morning.

About 40 Jobs for America’s Graduates — JAG — students from Southridge High School toured Jasper Engines’ two Jasper facilities Wednesday to learn about local career opportunities and what they might do after graduation with the STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — skills that are a focus in today’s education.

JAG is a national program that helps at-risk high school students make it to graduation day and helps prepare them for the opportunities they’ll have after graduation, either in college or the workforce.

Southridge launched its JAG program in 2015, and about 140 students have gone through it since then. The field trips to local companies are a regular part of the program. Wednesday’s trip came out of a partnership between JAG, Jasper Engines and Junior Achievement of Southwest Indiana, another program that focuses on preparing kids for life after high school.

During the trip, the students toured the facilities and learned about each department the company offers.

Southridge High School Jobs for America's Graduates students prepare for a tour at Jasper Engines & Transmissions to get firsthand experience with a variety of careers on Wednesday.

As Associate Bob LaMarche showed one group around, he pointed out the gasoline, diesel, custom and turbo engine divisions. He also showed the students the parts, customer service, engineering and information technology departments. In one area, he let the students feel the crushed, recycled plastic the company uses to clean engines. In another area he showed the students the curling equipment associates use to test their skills at the Olympic sport during breaks.

“We’re always doing something to have a little bit of fun,” LaMarche said.

By the end of the first tour, several students were thinking about a career at Jasper Engines.

“I’m probably going to end up working here, if they’ll hire me,” said senior Caleb Lechner.

Lechner did a lot of research on the company before the tour and said the salary and benefits are what attracted him most. If he lands a job with the company, he’d like to work somewhere in the gas engines division.

Jasper Engines’ developing turbo engine department intrigued junior Julie Calvillo. She’d already been imagining a career with the company. Learning about the turbo engine department piqued her interest even more.

Senior Camden Cooper is interested in working for the company off the production floor. She’d like to pursue a career in Jasper Engines’ customer service or retail departments. Like Lechner, she knew about the company before Wednesday’s tour. Her father, James Dilly, there.

For local companies and organizations like JAG and Junior Achievement that want to prepare students for the future, getting students hands-on experience with the local job market is important. According to the 2018 Indiana Kids Count Data Book, 54 percent of Indiana employers do not believe students are adequately prepared for the workforce, and 47 percent left jobs unfilled in the past year due to underqualified applicants. Tours like the one at Jasper Engines are one way local educators and companies are partnering to change those statistics.

“I think it’s perfect timing for (high school) students to go on tours,” said Sara Worstell of Grow Southwest Indiana Workforce in Evansville. “A lot of the high school students don’t know what they want to do or what’s around. The tours can help them decide.”

The hope is that once students decide on a career path, they’ll also choose to pursue it with a local company like Jasper Engines.

Southridge High School senior Brenda Figueroa listens during a tour to get firsthand experience with a variety of careers at Jasper Engines and Transmissions on Wednesday.

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