DANVILLE – Tucked away in a corner of the second floor at Danville High School is an office where students can be paired with a job or an internship at a local business.
“I help connect them with the business world,” Kim Kuchenbrod, a Danville District 118 career adviser and a workforce development consultant with Vermilion Advantage, said.
Kuchenbrod uses career assessment tools to match students’ skill sets and personalities with possible professions, as well as career mentoring and internships to prepare students for college or a career.
Shortly after students returned to school last month, a DHS student asked Kuchenbrod if she could help her find a job because she needed the financial support. The girl said she was only 15, but Kuchenbrod promised to find her an opportunity.
While that teenager was eager to enter the work force, others might be a little more reluctant or unsure.
“We ask the seniors, ‘What’s your plan?’ instead of them waiting to get to college and deciding it’s not for them,” Kuchenbrod said. “College isn’t for everyone.
“We try to get creative and get kids interested and engaged now,” she said. “We celebrate all pathways – four-year college, two-year college, trades, military and direct-to-work.”
Something that Kuchenbrod feels strongly about is that “every student should be in a career class.”
“It isn’t all about academics,” she said. “All jobs require some post-secondary training, but college might not be necessary.”
Kuchenbrod pointed to data Vermilion Advantage collected this year from local employers that said 61 percent of local jobs required at least a high school education and some post-secondary training, certification or experience. Thirty-two percent of the local jobs required a bachelor’s degree, and 25 percent required an associate degree plus special certifications.
Whether it’s a career pathway or a part-time job, Kuchenbrod can provide teens with the career services they need.
“We have a job board in school where kids can see what’s available,” she said. “We assist them with filling out a job application, and we get them ready with resumes and mock interviews.”
The Youth Job Board on the Vermilion Advantage website provides area teens with a way to find internships, job shadowing, part-time and volunteer opportunities. Area employers also can post their available jobs for free on the Youth Job Board.
In addition, area employers, such as ThyssenKrupp and OSF, provide opportunities to teens to discover what it is like to work at those businesses.
ThyssenKrupp has offered a youth apprenticeship program for several years.
“The ThyssenKrupp youth apprenticeship is truly a bridge program,” Kuchenbrod said. “If can get them in a WECEP (Work Experience & Career Exploration) co-op program, they can touch it and feel it and then they can tailor their classwork to what they’re interested in.
“OSF has a wonderful job shadowing program for kids interested in the health care field,” she added.
In October, two career fairs will offer teens an opportunity to learn more about manufacturing and construction.
Kuchenbrod said she keeps in touch with some of the former students and is willing to help them achieve their next goal in life.
“I have some former students who come back a year or two later and are ready to take that next step and get an associate degree,” she said.
Kuchenbrod said her biggest thrill, however, is when a student succeeds.
“That’s my reward, when they call me and say they got the job,” she said.