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Focusing On Their Futures

Students at a Career Event Day session

Becoming an adult doesn’t come with an instruction manual or even an app.

But juniors and seniors at Sheboygan Falls High School got a little extra insight into what awaited them during a series of “Adulting 101”  workshops held recently during an all-school career exploration event. For freshman and sophomores, “Focus On The Future” included sessions with two major local employers – the Kohler Company and Bemis Manufacturing. Company representatives discussed the types of jobs available at each company and the training needed for them in a round-robin format.

The freshmen attended the Kohler sessions and also heard from representatives of several local colleges and technical schools as well as Inspire-Sheboygan, an agency that links Sheboygan County school districts and employers. Sophomores heard about opportunities with Bemis and co-op career exploration.

These elements had been offered to students before but the Adulting 101 sessions for juniors and seniors were new this year, said school counselor Janis Jarosch.

“I just wanted everyone to be able to get something out of this,” she explained, adding that as students prepare to leave high school for college or career “they need to have a deeper understanding” of the challenges that await them.

The sessions explored filling out job applications, making credit choices, taxes, insurance and even cell phone etiquette. All of the sessions were taught by community professionals who are volunteers through the Junior Achievement program.

Although some of those topics may come up in classes like personal finance, others are never addressed in an academic setting, Jarosch said.

Take cell phone etiquette, for instance. Tina Brunmeier, vice president and regional banking manager at Wells Fargo started that session by comparing work place rules mandating no use of personal phones during the work day to teachers prohibiting cell phone use during class.

“It’s just not professional. We’re all working,” she said.

But she went further, giving students a list of specific cell phone dos and donts. Phones should be put away and muted at work and friends and family should be told not to call or text. Phones should be used only on breaks – if permitted by the employer – and not in workplace bathrooms.

Some students challenged the prohibition on family members calling, noting there could be an emergency. But Brunmeier reminded them that families could call the workplace main number and contact them directly. She also asked students to come up with rules of their own about
cell phone use.

Paul Fredelake, cost accounting manager a Vollrath Company, led a session on credit choices. He traced the development of the consumer lending business and explained how it benefits financial institutions and credit card companies at the expense of borrowers. He encouraged students to take a lighter course load so they could work while they were in school and pay off their tuition so they don’t graduate with huge student loans.

“You can go into debt if you want to but it’s going to cost you a more than if you were just willing to be patient and save up,” he said.

Phil Van Ess, director of safety, security and environmental at Sargento Foods talked to students about how to effectively communicate in the workplace. He went over tips for being an active listener such as making eye contact, summarizing what has been said and repeating it back, and never being afraid to ask questions.

He also talked about what goes into being a good employee. Employees should be early not just on time, be ready to do any task that needs to be done and refrain from personal gossip or talking about hot button issues like politics or religion.

A Sheboygan Falls School District alumnus, he was especially pleased to offer some expert advice to students. These types of sessions didn’t exist when he was in high school so he had to learn this type of information in the “school of hard knocks.”

“There’s plenty of things for kids to worry about these days,” he said. “So being able to do sessions like this and give them a little edge up is a postive thing.”