STEP, the Student to Employment Program, has a new name. It is now known as the High School Intern (HSI) Program. According to HSI Coordinator Doug Hassenbein, the new name allows teens and young adults to easily recognize the program is an opportunity available for high school students. It also better represents the whole state, as the HSI program is being made available to all commonwealth agencies.
At PennDOT, the HSI program allows vocational technology students to co-op for half a day throughout the school year and work full-time hours during the summer. The program is available to juniors and seniors recommended to PennDOT by their local vo-tech career counselors, also known as co-op coordinators. Seniors may work until the HSI program ends on June 30 each year.
"Recruitment should start at the earliest level as possible," said Kristi Settlemire, Human Resources Officer for PennDOT District 1. "Programs like this are beneficial to PennDOT and students. It allows us to show students what type of careers are available while also preparing for our future as an employer."
Students benefit by gaining professional work experience, a paycheck, and possible advancement within the organization. For example, Cambridge Springs graduate Alyssa Atkinson was a diesel mechanic vo-tech student who participated in the program when it was still called STEP. She became a full-time employee in July 2016, took advantage of various opportunities for advancement, and is now the head mechanic in Erie County.
Alyssa isn't the only District 1 success story. A majority of HSI program students have become full-time upon graduation, according to Kristi.
"The High School Intern Program provides an opportunity for PennDOT to work with and evaluate students, helps with recruitment for positions that are hard to fill or in high demand, and allows students to become familiar with department operations and procedures," said Erie County Manager Jim Shaut. "It provides the student with a wide variety of equipment to work on they may not experience at a different shop."
Erie County currently has one intern on staff. Cambridge Springs student Brody Beck has been working for PennDOT since spring of this year. He is a diesel mechanic student in vo-tech and says he loves learning to work on various equipment at PennDOT such as rollers, tractors, and dump trucks.
Another Erie County success story, Erie high school graduate Salvador Murillo has been working full-time with PennDOT for a year. He did automotive tech in high school, interned for PennDOT through the HSI program, and upon graduation heard PennDOT was hiring from his co-op coordinator. Murillo said he enjoys working on various vehicles and equipment, which can be challenging sometimes, but is worthwhile to learn.
PennDOT is currently in the process of hiring HSI Program students. Students considering the HSI Program should tell their co-op coordinators they are interested and go to employment.pa.gov for more information.
Jim's advice to students unsure if the HSI Program is right for them: "It's a great opportunity to learn and decide if this is the right employer. They may even want to explore different positions within the department."
HSI picture 1 – Lead Erie County maintenance mechanic Alyssa Atkinson was among those interviewed by WJET-TV as a part of their "Skilled Workforce" series. The story can be viewed here.
HSI picture 3 – HSI intern Brody Beck answers questions from WJET-TV reporter Lou Baxter.
HSI picture 4 – Erie County manager Jim Shaut is interviewed by WJET-TV as a part of their "Skilled Workforce" series. The story can be viewed here.