MT. VERNON – Local teen Jacob Williamson wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to pursue a career in mechanical engineering.
But now after working for over three months at National Railway’s Mt. Vernon facility, he has gained valuable real-world experience and is confident he’s on the right career path.
“After this experience, seeing how it really is in the workforce, I want to pursue it,” said Williamson, 17, a senior at Mt. Vernon Township High School. “It’s just stuff you can’t learn in a classroom. It’s hands-on.”
Williamson is one of two MVTHS seniors who are the first to participate in a new cooperative placement program run by the Mt. Vernon Area Vocational Center. The other student is James Campise, 17.
As part of the program, both students began working at National Railway this June. During the summer, they worked full-time, but now that school has started they work for part of the day.
The goal is to give these students a taste of what it’s really like to work in an actual engineering position, said Robert Knutson, director of the Mt. Vernon Area Vocational Center.
At this point, the program is available to Jefferson County high school juniors and seniors enrolled in Project Lead The Way courses at the AVC.
Knutson added that the program is part of a long-term effort to encourage more students to return to Mt. Vernon after college to work for local companies.
“Quite frankly, we have the talent in this area,” Knutson said. “It was just a matter of providing the opportunity for the student to learn those skills.”
With the program, Williamson has been heavily involved in redesigning parts for National Railway’s next locomotives. Working with a mentor, he has used 3D software to help modify drawings for parts that need to be redesigned.