Simon Williams wasn’t interested in college; he instead saw a professional path after high school that avoided costly and time-wasting diversions.
“I just didn’t want to start my career four years later, with almost $100,000 in the hole,” said the recent Grandview graduate and new hire at Honeywell as an assembler adjuster.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Kansas City National Security Campus (KCNSC) — managed by Honeywell — announced an opportunity for careers in manufacturing to graduating high school students with career technical education certifications.
The Department of Energy’s Kansas City National Security Campus, which is managed by Honeywell, is part of the collection of laboratories and production facilities within the Nuclear Security Administration. KCNSC works to create technology roadmaps to ensure they are at the forefront of national security innovation.
Seven graduating seniors at Grandview High School were given the opportunity to interview for a position, with two students accepting full-time jobs. Through high school, these students have attended either Herndon Career Academy or Summit Technology Academy to participate in traditional career technical programs to gain skills needed for such job opportunities.
“Students can learn a lot for free now while we’re young, and it doesn’t really take much out of your school schedule,” Williams said in reference to his time at Herndon Career Academy. “[Herndon has] so many different classes you can take — not just construction. They’ve got automotive tech, they have cooking for people who want to be professional chefs. They have welding, HVAC, cosmetology.”
The new hires will be set up for success through KCNSC’s extensive hands-on training, meetings with a mentor who has worked in the industry for decades and a skills assessment to find the best career fit for each individual, said Norman Kump, who serves as the manufacturing manager at KCNSC.
“You have to know who you work with to be able to build trust and respect,” Kump explained. “It’s so neat to see the veteran, the tendered employees interacting with the new and younger employees. People here want to share their knowledge because there’s a sense of pride with what we do here. We want to be sure to pass that knowledge on, so we can keep protecting this country. It’s very near and dear to our hearts.”
Kump, who helped launch the opportunity at Honeywell for recent graduates, believes in giving young people such opportunities because someone once took a chance on him, he shared.
“I was an 18-year-old who wasn’t ready for college at one time,” Kump recalled. “At 18-years-old, you can be molded into what you need and want to be. You could do just about anything in this company.”
New hires in their entry-level positions are offered a competitive pay at $31.33 an hour. But it’s not solely the pay that intrigued Williams, he said. He’s thinking long-term.
“The pay is fantastic — but if I stay with Honeywell for around five years, there’s a possibility that I could put myself through another degree without having to pay for anything,” Williams said. “Then I can gain more experience, go on to do more government contracts, which would make even more money.”
It is important that students know it is possible to start a thriving career straight out of high school, said Venita Thurman, principal at Grandview High School.
“Everyone’s pathway is not college,” Thurman said, noting about 60 percent of Grandview students are not choosing college right away. “There are multiple other pathways that can lead them to success. They can still have a meaningful career doing the things they love to do while making good money and supporting themselves and their families in the future.”
While students are still in high school, Grandview works to prepare them for whatever path they choose after graduation, Thurman said.
Honeywell also partners with Grandview High School teachers to bring in professionals to instruct the teachers on courses in engineering and manufacturing technology, Thurman said.
“Our teachers are able to bring that training back to the classroom and work directly with our students,” she explained. “It’s a great partnership right down the street. Also the fact that [KCNSC managed by Honeywell is] hiring our students is really powerful because it allows them to stay in our local community.”
Williams and his fellow Grandview graduate are set to start their training at KCNSC June 20. For Williams, he is looking forward to advancing his skills in an ever-changing and evolving field of work.
“I enjoy welding,” Williams shared. “And since we’re working on contracts — it might be the same thing for six to nine months — but I know it’ll switch up eventually.”
Click here to read about another Kansas City-based initiative that is providing 500 high school students with paid summer internships.