14:46 PM

Building Classroom-to-Career Connections

Schools, businesses discuss preparing tomorrow's workforce today

Nearly half of central Minnesota's high school seniors don't seek post-secondary education after graduation. With those numbers in mind, an important conversation is taking place between schools and the business community to ensure students are ready for the workforce that awaits.

The 2019 Workforce Conference was held Nov. 8 at Sourcewell in Staples where 120 individuals representing schools, agencies, communities, and business and industry joined in on the dialogue.

Bart Graves, education solutions career and college readiness consultant at Sourcewell, said the intent of this annual event is to provide best-practice examples for schools and business connections. With all voices represented at the table, participants have an opportunity to discover and discuss ways schools and companies can partner to provide businesses with the skilled workers they need while giving students the career exposure and experience they desire.

“One of our challenges is to provide opportunities for this group to be productive in work and community at a time when we desperately need them engaged,” Graves said, referring to the students who immediately enter the workplace following high school graduation.

Those in attendance heard from successful school and business partnerships already happening in the area, including:

  • The NextGen Bears at Bertha-Hewitt High School.
  • Manufacturing skills at Little Falls Community Schools through Amatrol eLearning.
  • Healthcare opportunities with Tri-County Health in Wadena and the Good Samaritan organization.
  • Jacket Manufacturing – a manufacturing education course at Perham High School, allowing students the chance to learn business skills while earning course credit and getting paid for their efforts.

This was the first time David Jones attended the annual conference. Jones, operations supervisor at AirBorn, Inc., an electronics manufacturer in Little Falls, said the Workforce Conference was a great way to get involved with other businesses, local schools, and their respective communities.

“I didn't know what to expect coming in,” Jones said following the conference. “I wasn't sure how it would be structured or what was going to be happening. And I wasn't expecting anything like the Jacket Manufacturing presentation. When I was in school, I didn't know anything about that. I knew nothing about manufacturing or running a business. You just didn't learn it.”

However, with his first Workforce Conference under his belt, Jones said he'll be back and encourages others to follow suit.

“Businesses should come,” he said, “because they'll see the opportunities in their communities to build their future workforce.”

About Sourcewell

Sourcewell (formerly National Joint Powers Alliance) is a self-supporting government organization, partnering with education, government, and nonprofits to boost student and community success. Created in 1978 as one of Minnesota's nine service cooperatives, we offer training and shared services to our central-Minnesota members. Throughout North America, we offer a cooperative purchasing program with over 325 awarded vendors on contract. Sourcewell is driven by service and the ability to strategically reinvest in member communities.