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News & Press: FOCUS

Taking the First Step

Wednesday, September 6, 2017  
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Starting a career doesn’t have to wait until after college. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s 1st S.T.E.P. (School to Training and Employment Program) has offered 98 Lansing-area seniors the ability to explore career opportunities and gain hands-on experience in their desired field, all before high school graduation.

“It’s a work-based learning program for high school students to find out about the Electric Utility industry and the Board of Water and Light, specifically,” said Dallas Burdick, Organization Development and Training Manager for the Lansing Board of Water and Light. “A high school senior that is eligible for the program can apply, and if accepted into the program, they earn $12 an hour, and after completion they would earn a $2,000 scholarship to LCC. So, it’s a pretty good program all the way around to benefit local Lansing-area high school seniors.”

The structured process that 1st S.T.E.P. offers, requires students to work in “real world jobs” and learn fundamentals to take with them in their futures, as well as train for potential future employment. Students can work in IT, customer service, engineering support, the water plant, the power plants, warehousing areas — any area that interests them.

“We attach the students, really at the hip, to a mentor who then takes the student under their wing and teaches them about our system and some basic employability skills. The student has the opportunity to job shadow their mentor as well as other employees in the work area and participate in many of the job tasks performed. Always, the focus is to keep the students safe while they learn about the utility industry and the real world of work” said Burdick. “Some of these young people may even have the opportunity to be hired full-time after they graduate from high school as a result of participating in 1st S.T.E.P.”

“If we hire a student full-time, we encourage them to continue their education,” said Burdick. “We have a lot of skilled trades jobs, too — apprentice-able positions that require them to be going to school and working in a trade and learning under an experienced journey worker.”

Alex Martin (Mentor) and Marissa Klimkiewicz (1st STEP) student.

The program was initially created in 2007 in partnership with International Brotherhood of Electric Workers (IBEW) Local 352, Lansing School District, local Career Centers, Lansing Community College and Capital Area Michigan Works! Since its official launch in 2008, 1st S.T.E.P. has hired nearly 25 fulltime employees throughout all areas of the company and awarded more than $147,000 in scholarships to attend Lansing Community College. Also, according to Burdick, the IBEW Local 352 is a significant part of the program’s success since nearly all of the programs mentors are Union members.

“Let’s say the student isn’t hired full-time by the Board of Water & Light, but is inspired to go onto school to take on a new trade or vocation somewhere, or perhaps study electrical engineering or computer science, or whatever inspires them to continue their education — that is also a benefit because it keeps students engaged and it puts them on a better career and life path,” said Burdick.

Click here to download the September issue of FOCUS.

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