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Job training prepares students for the future


Bruce Riekels, general manager of the Columbus American Eurocopter plant, looks over his facilities with Columbus High School senior Graham Young. Young is set to begin work there Tuesday as part of cooperative education program between CHS and area employers.

Bruce Riekels, general manager of the Columbus American Eurocopter plant, looks over his facilities with Columbus High School senior Graham Young. Young is set to begin work there Tuesday as part of cooperative education program between CHS and area employers. Photo by: Courtesy


Kristin Mamrack



Employers showing confidence in Columbus High School students are being rewarded with motivated, dependable and cost-effective employees. 


And the students gain valuable work experience. 


In its second year of operation, a cooperative education program at CHS is preparing students for successful careers by helping them acquire skills through vocational programs at CHS'' McKellar Technology Center, then placing them in professional positions, through a network of cooperative industries and employers, allowing them to utilize their skills. 


Currently, 20 students are in the cooperative program, working at various job sites, including, the Columbus Air Force Base Commissary, Sonic Drive-In, Taco Bell, Malco theater, Waffle House, McAllister''s Deli, Waters Truck and Tractor, Auto Spa, Southern Family Market, Pizza Hut, Columbus Light and Water, JR''s Restaurant and Texaco, Sunflower, Wendy''s, Elm Lake Clinic and Sports Specialty. 


Of the 20 students in the program, seven are working in the Golden Triangle Industrial Park at job sites, including Stark Aerospace and American Eurocopter. 


A senior at CHS, Graham Young, 17, Tuesday will begin working at American Eurocopter, where he''ll likely help with tracking spare parts and certification documents, and record-keeping, while observing the skills required of the company''s aircraft mechanics. 


"I am really excited, because it''s going to give me skills and experience I''ll need later on in life for college and other jobs," he said. 


The general manager of the Columbus American Eurocopter plant and senior director of the facilities, Bruce Riekels, was instrumental in helping get the cooperative program off the ground, Columbus Municipal School District officials said. 


After a tour of the McKellar Technology Center, Riekels invited all 22 businesses in the industrial park for a meeting, with lunch provided by American Eurocopter, to discuss the program. 


"I was shocked by how neat the facilities were and how big the program at McKellar was," he recalled." It was most astounding to find out bunches of students were qualified, but they had no transportation to the industrial park." 


CMSD Superintendent Dr. Del Phillips agreed to provide a school bus for transportation for the students to and from their job sites at the industrial park. 


"It was a real godsend," Riekels said, noting most of the cooperative businesses will employ the students for the entire school year and the summer. 


The student employees are treated like regular, full-time employees and, additionally, will receive training in effective interviewing techniques and developing resumes. 


Each students'' supervisor will be required to sign the student''s report cards and will be encouraged to mentor the student. 


"We''re anxious to get over this (economic downturn), so we can expand the program," Riekels said. "It''s American Eurocopter''s goal to include West Point and Clay County, Starkville and Oktibbhea County. We feel strongly about that, because we''ve got employees who live in all those areas. As the industrial park grows, there will be more opportunity out here. 


"We feel there''s more to economic development than buildings," he continued, noting American Eurocopter employees were challenged to "find ways to support the community." "It''s our responsibility to help the community develop the workforce. We grow our people in Columbus." 


Employing CHS cooperative program students helps the company accomplish its goal, Riekels said. 


"We get a motivated employee at a low price," he explained, noting the students are paid minimum wage. "We''ll be partnering with the community, developing a long-term workforce. It gets the news out about what we do here and hopefully, these students will go back and spread the word American Eurocopter encourages students to pursue higher education and to develop additional skills to put some purpose to their educational experience." 


To participate in the cooperative program, students must maintain grades higher than a C average, have a 95 percent or better attendance record and a clear discipline record. 


Each participating student also is required to sign a code of ethics, promising to report for work on time and remain as scheduled, be honest in all dealings with work, supervisors and employers, wear proper attire and be well groomed, not receive visitors on the job, comply with company and school policies and act in a manner positively reflecting CHS, fellow classmates, the cooperative education program and the student.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment Jessie commented at 9/7/2009 8:39:00 PM:

This is a great program. I am in the New Hope Coop Program and this is a great chance for my peers to expand into the workforce and gain experiance in fields of intrest


Article Comment Tim commented at 9/8/2009 10:15:00 AM:

Congratulations, Graham.


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