Mentoring event helps speed students toward ‘next step’
By Dick Maloney
Clermont Northeastern High School juniors and seniors may not yet know what they want to do after high school, but they were able to experience 22 jobs over two hours earlier this month.
The Clermont Chamber of Commerce conducted one of its speed mentoring programs at the high school April 14 – one of six the Chamber runs across the county, and the first at CNE since 2020. Tables were set up around the perimeter of the basketball court inside the high school gymnasium; students in groups of four or more spent five to six minutes at each table before moving, clockwise, to the next one.
Representatives of businesses, both within Clermont County and from beyond the borders, talked about their life and their careers, and, as importantly, listened. There was even a “cheat sheet” at each table, with a list of questions students were encouraged to ask, including “What do you like/dislike about your job?” “When you were in high school, what kind of job did you think you wanted?” “What is one thing you would do differently in high school?” “What mistakes have you made in your job and what was the result?”
The phrasing of the questions was flexible; the value of the conversations incalculable. The theme was consistent: Where you are now is not where you will be in 10 years, five years or even one year. The path will change, but you need to take the first steps.
“The job you start with outside of high school or college won't be the last one. You will always be redefining and redeveloping yourself. So it's OK,” Robb Lohr said. He is the executive director of business development at Lion + Panda, a digital marketing and web development firm in West Chester Township.
“The days of working 35 years and getting a gold watch are gone, like my dad. Continue to develop yourself and always look for opportunities to improve your network,” Lohr said. He also offered advice that would win one student a gift card at the end of the morning – “If you're the smartest one in the room, you're in the wrong room” – meaning, don't stay within your comfort zone.
Faculty member Steve Thompson served as the school’s liaison with the chamber, He agreed that it is unrealistic to expect someone at 18 to know what they want to do with their life, but it’s not too early to push students, “but at least have a pathway to guide you to where you might want to go,” he said.
Businesses represented were chosen by the chamber based on recommendations from Thompson, according to Chamber director of government and head of its Workforce Readiness Initiative, Andrew McAfee. He and director of development Heather Frye ran the program, as they have done at Batavia, Goshen, Loveland and Williamsburg high schools, with another coming up at Bethel-Tate. “CNE is going to be a lot different than Loveland, so we try to diversify it as much as we can,” McAfee said.
McAfee is a 2009 Glen Este High School graduate. This is the first year he has been involved with “on-site” speed mentoring programs. As school administrators, faculty and students navigate the return to “normalcy,” the Chamber is trying to find its place, and help the process, while assisting members and businesses in finding talent.
“That's been I think, the biggest challenge. We try to not be too pushy or anything, but hosting events like this, where the ask is pretty simple, all we basically need is a room just to get these students some exposure to these different careers,” he said.
Eric Plummer, with Ohio Means Jobs, said virtual programs will never have the same impact as face-to-face interaction.
“When kids can be in person, as much time as they spend doing almost everything virtually now whether it's their recreational time, their learning, their job search, their shopping or whatever, it’s nice for them to be able to actually understand that some things involve standing in front of another person and talking with them,” Plummer said.
Trevor Seal represented Park National Bank emphasized service to the community during his sessions with students.
“They're wonderful. They all are. They all just carry themselves really well. They're all wonderful,” he said. “Their lives (will) be filled with a lot of good things if they try to be outward and help others and serve others and yeah, so they're all wonderful. And hopefully they invest in themselves.”
Plummer shared a similar message.
“When I was in high school I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Some people find something they love to do, and they do it for their whole life. Other people have 12, 15 different jobs in their adult life. And either one is OK, as long as you're able to take care of yourself and pay your bills. And you can smile at the end of the day. It's OK,” he said.
Speed mentoring was the second program this spring at CNE designed to help students; the school had a job fair for seniors March 22. Ohio Means Jobs was a partner in that event as well. Seventeen businesses took part. Both align with CNE’s stated purpose for its senior classes – that students either proceed to college, a full-time job, or enlist in the military
“I think it's really important that whether they want to enlist in the military, whether they join a trade or whether they want to head to college, this is an important step in (the) future planning process,” high school Principal T.J. Glassmeyer said.
These businesses participated in the speed mentoring program at Clermont Northeastern High School:
Bachman's HVAC Solutions
Child Focus Inc.
Clermont County Educational Service Center
Clermont County Public Library
Directional Technology Solutions
Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland - Cincinnati Branch
General Tool Co.
Lion + Panda
OhioMeansJobs Clermont County
Papa John's Pizza
Park National Bank
Sunrise Treatment Center
U.S. Army Recruiting - Eastgate
University of Cincinnati-Area Health Education Center
University of Cincinnati Clermont College
Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 649
These businesses participated in the senior job fair at Clermont Northeastern High School:
Cinfed Credit Union
Clermont County YMCA
Dick's Sporting Goods
Eastgate Pools and Spas
Elite Welding Academy
Integrated Tests and Measurement
LJ Service Flagging and Traffic Control
Southern Ohio Technical Institute
Southwest Ohio Developmental Center
United States Air Force
United State Navy