When you were in school, or if you still are in school, did you hate if someone told you, “Well, when you are in the real world ... ?” Insert the end of the statement based on your experience.

Although we could make an argument students do engage in truly authentic experiences while in high school, what we really mean is the world of work is entirely different than the world of school. So true.

Employers talk to me every week discussing ways we can create experiences for students to better understand what work will require. If students could have good experiences in their businesses while in high school, they might become great full-time employees after graduation.

That is where work-based learning and the Tolles Career & Technical Center internship program come in.

With more than 50 employers in support of bringing students on board as members of their team, we are transforming schooling into the real world long before graduation.

Career-technical education is a pathway to work-based learning. As technology changes everything we do, right down to mowing our lawns, Tolles students are on the cutting edge.

For example, Jefferson Local School District student Mason Bare has interviewed at Autmow Robotic Mowing in Columbus and will begin an internship in which he will map properties and install software. Robots will mow our lawns and this high school student is making it happen right here in central Ohio. Welcome to the real world.

Another powerful example of how career-technical education helps students produce bankable skills is Kacie Karner.

Karner, a student from the Madison-Plains Local School District, graduated from the Tolles Pre-Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Program in May 2017.

Prior to that, Kacie attended Manufacturing Day in October 2016 at Nissen Chemitec America in London.

She asked if she could shadow a Nissen Chemitec engineer in December 2016. Because Tolles and Nissen Chemitec had a strong partnership, Karner was able to intern at Nissen while attending Tolles.

Making Nissen Chemitec her classroom, Karner learned from engineers in the manufacturing field from February 2017 until her graduation. Karner also completed a capstone project at the company.

After completing her first year at Cleveland State, Karner continued her internship at Nissen Chemitec. She demonstrated such talent and skill that Shawn Hendrix, president of Nissen Chemitec America, offered her a part-time internship for this school year when she transferred from Cleveland State to Columbus State Community College.

Karner will graduate with her associate’s degree in electromechanical engineering at the end of December. She said she wants to transition to full-time after she earns her associate’s degree because she likes the “hands-on” engineering work she is doing Nissen Chemitec.

“Kacie is a wonderful young lady with excellent communication skills, excellent work habits (on-time and where she is supposed to be), and she has a very warm personality,” Hendrix said. “Any one of my associates will tell you that I just don’t throw the word ‘excellent’ out if it is not deserved.”

Karner’s choice to engage in career-technical education when she was a sophomore in high school led her to the Tolles Pre-Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Program, which led her to Manufacturing Day and ultimately to successful employment with Nissen Chemitec America.

Tolles serves all of the Madison County school districts, Fairbanks Local School District in Union County and the Dublin City School District and Hilliard City Schools in Franklin County, making stories like Karner’s and Bare’s possible for thousands of students.

With college credit offered in almost every Tolles program, students receive a strong foundation in work-based learning.

Welcome, to the real world.

Emmy Beeson is superintendent of Tolles Career & Technical Center, which includes students from the Dublin and Hilliard school districts. Contact her at ebeeson@ tollestech.com.