PREBLE COUNTY — Before the COVID-19 crisis, Preble County Educational Service Center (ESC) Career Connection Director Harold Niehaus continued to work throughout all five Preble County school districts to promote career readiness and future success in all students.
Niehaus has been working to develop a career success plan for all students K-12. He is involved with all grades, working closely to interest students in careers at a young age and developing that interest throughout all years of schooling.
He has presented careers through the use of coloring books and a career tool box, having presented to 151 second grade students thus far. He has met with 75-plus seventh grade students to start planning for their high school educational experiences.
He has had over 300 individual career planning sessions with Preble County high school seniors. Over 600 junior and senior students have been entered in the new Preble County Careers job portal, in partnership with the Preble County Development Partnership. They have expanded the number of senior interns to a total of 10 in 2020.
Niehaus has taken several other steps to work with students, including promoting job shadowing starting next school year. He wants all students to have a job shadow in their high school career. He tries to work with all students in different ways to promote future success, whatever that looks like for the individual student.
Part of that is his promotion of future education, without telling students they must go to college to be successful.
“A four year degree is not the only option, but future education is a must. Every student has to realize with our fast moving society now, they will be students for life. They will consistently need to learn. That may be a certificate program, a two year associate degree, a four year bachelor’s degree, CDL training — it just depends on what that student’s likes and desires are, but they will definitely need some type of future education,” he said.
He has seen a huge impact in the students since working with them. They feel welcomed and thankful to have this experience — Niehaus has even seen students grow confidence in themselves as they work and learn more about their individual interests.
“It is exciting to see younger students and those ready to graduate to really think about their future,” he said. “So many times our students and their families do not know of all the opportunities we have here in Preble County and it is my role in this position to help them learn of those opportunities.
“Having worked with so many seniors this year, I have heard several times that they appreciate the honest conversations we have had concerning their future career options and the next steps necessary to achieve their goals.”
He believes this program is important for the school districts to have because it is promoting Preble County businesses to those residents, in hope they stay, grow, and contribute to their home county.
“How many times do we look over opportunities in our own backyard? We have some great businesses here – Henny Penny supports this program and their Global Headquarters are right here in our town. We have two locations of Parker Hannifin, which is a world-wide company,” he said. “We need to make sure everybody knows that these opportunities are available in the county.
“I appreciate the planning of our local superintendents to make the Career Connections Director position a reality for our students in Preble County as well as the additional financial support provided by Henny Penny.”