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Carrie Cline - 3/26/2015

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. - When you think of an internship, you think of a college student getting job experience before they hit the real world.

But now a growing number of high school students are getting some on-the-job training before they even get their diploma.

While most of his classmates at Noblesville High School are learning in the classroom,  Juan Armendariz is learning on the job. The high school senior is working as an intern at SMC Corporation in Noblesville learning manufacturing. He's gained a new found love for machinery.
"I feel like that this internship program has really helped me get closer to a career pathway for the near future," said Juan.

"Skills they couldn't learn here, but out there learn things like communication, working collaborative, being on time," said Susan Wiersema, Noblesville High School internship coordinator.

Wiersema coordinates the largest and most successful high school internship program in the state. Part of its success comes from the school's block scheduling. It allows the students flexibility to work their internship into their school day two to three days a week.

"In their journals, kids talk about, 'I never could have learned this in the classroom' and they're not being negative about their teacher or the classroom, but they're just exposed to experiences that would not happen here," said Wiersema.

"I've learned about a new job career that I'm now looking into. It's called a surgical PA - physician's assistant - they assist with the surgery," said Sara Sigman.

Sara is interning at St. Vincent Carmel Hospital. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. Now, she's already narrowing that down.

"It's kind of made me realize I need to do more than memorize the work and get an A. I need to actually learn the material. The great thing about this internship is the application," said Sara.

For the businesses, it's a win-win. Here at SMC, not only do they get some extra manpower, but they're also helping to shape the workforce for the future that they can then draw from.

"We want Juan and anyone else like Juan to be here in the next four years after they graduate from college and be our design engineers, manufacturing engineers or our future managers at this facility," said Frank Rivera, SMC Distribution Manager.

Juan is on his way. Nominated by SMC for his leadership skills and strong work ethic, the Indiana Chamber named him "Intern of the Year."

"Very privileged and very honored to receive such an award," said Juan.

Noblesville Schools were also awarded a $142,000 workforce development partnership grant by the state to further develop career training opportunities for their students.