Work programs: more than just job training

By Jonny Valentine

Corona del Sol is back in session, and parttime jobs, which have become an increasingly important part of the economics of attending high school, have given way to hitting the books.

Unless, of course, you’re among the growing number of students participating in one of several school-sanctioned work programs.

Corona has three such offerings: DECA, which connects students with jobs in the marketing and sales industry; COE, which emphasizes positions in office environments; and HERO, where students vie for opportunities in the human-services arena.

Though slightly different in focus, each allows students to earn high school credit--and money.

Students enrolled in the programs have one class period every day devoted to developing industry-related skills. The participants are typically released from school at 11:45 to go to work, which means they miss the last two periods--time that otherwise could be used to take additional classes.

However, by participating in a work program, the student not only earns one credit for the daily class but two additional credits for working at the job.

This equates to earning the same amount of credit as a student who remains at school and is enrolled in two more classes. This incentive is what attracts many of the students in the work programs to enroll.

Mike Lohmann, who has taught marketing at Corona and has overseen the DECA program for four years, this year is teaching students enrolled in the COE program.

According to Lohmann, the motivation can be high to enroll in one of the available programs.

“For the students there are quite a few incentives to do a work program,” Lohmann said. “Mostly they get to go to work and get credit for it.”

The early release is a big factor for most students as well.

“From a student’s perspective, they get release hours to go to work, and they still get credit for those releases,” Lohmann said.

“They usually go home or to work after fourth hour is over.”

The students are required to work 540 hours per year, which is about 15 hours a week, although many participating in the programs actually work more for the extra money.

“They all get a paycheck,” Lohmann said, “so it’s like they’re getting paid to go to school, at least for those last two hours every day.”

Because Corona offers three different work programs, there are opportunities for students to work almost anywhere they want and receive school credit in return.

“In the COE program, I have a few students that do office work at Fulton Homes, and I have another that works at Tempe Schools Credit Union,” Lohmann said.

“With DECA, the sales and marketing range is very broad, so I have some students that work at the Pointe South Mountain, others that work at Wendy’s, some at movie theaters, and lots more.”

To keep track of his students in the workforce, Lohmann schedules regular meetings with students’ employers. “I go out…once every quarter to see how the students are doing,” he said.

“Also, we see if there are any goals we can establish for them so that they can work to do better on the job.”

Lohmann says that typically his students do well at their jobs.

“Their employers generally have nothing but high regard for their work, and the way they conduct themselves on the job,” he said.

“And because of that they usually get very good grades in the work program, so the programs can help the students’ GPAs as well.”

During the daily class, students accomplish most of the same things they would in other classes, except that the material is geared toward their respective field of employment. For example, students in the COE program might learn how to write memos or properly type business letters.

“The classes are pretty similar to any other high school class you might take,” Lohmann said. “We have textbooks, we take tests…stuff like that.”

Even so, it’s not all boring.

“It is a fun class…it really is,” Lohmann said.

“A lot of the students really enjoy some of the things they learn, and these are skills that they can apply, not only on the job but in everyday life.”

Another benefit is that, by enrolling in one of these work programs, students can earn their free enterprise credit, which is required to graduate in the Tempe Union High School District. Although a variety of classes satisfy this requirement, most students pick up this credit by taking an economics class.

This year, more than 50 students are enrolled in one of the three work programs at Corona, so don’t be surprised if you encounter one of them working at a local business or a boss telling you about a young “miracle worker.”

Says Lohmann:

“A lot of times the students’ employers will call me just to offer praise.”