Article by: Marty Walsh
March 9th was the culmination of a month-long project by the Houston County, MN Economic Development Authority in partnership with important entities such as: Perkins Consortium; Caledonia, MN; La Crescent, MN; Lewiston-Altura schools, Rushford-Peterson schools, Fillmore County, MN Economic Development and Workforce Development, Inc. These organizations, including the CEDA team members serving the affected areas, worked together to bring career readiness information to senior students. Also importantly, the event helped local businesses get exposure among the students for job opportunities as well as giving the businesses a better understanding of what the emerging workforce looks like.
CEDA team member Courtney Bergey Swanson aided Perkins Consortium Director Brian Cashman in coordinating the initial group of schools after coming to understand that there was a disconnect between school and employers that could be remedied with increased communication. Area schools then dedicated themselves to developing curriculum that better connected the two critical components of the community and additional partnerships, including CEDA, brought in Fillmore County Economic Development and Workforce Development, Inc. The working group determined a senior career day to be a worthwhile goal that could be accomplished within the school year, and something that can grow into job shadowing, apprenticeships, and general career awareness for local students. Connecting students early to the wide variety of workforce opportunities in the community increases the probability that they will seek and find fulfilling employment in the region, something that was attractive to the nearly two dozen businesses who participated in the career day by sending volunteers from their Human Resource and Business Development departments to conduct mock interviews and answer questions about their communities. Businesses attended from 5 counties representing fields from logistics to banking to advanced manufacturing.
“Many of our business participants felt they gained great insight getting to talk to students one on one,” said Marty Walsh, the CEDA team member serving the Fillmore County EDA, “And many realized even if there wasn’t a student who lived in the same town as their business, they may have relatives seeking career opportunities for whom it’s a better fit. Many also recognize anyone from the region is more likely to move back here after seeking a degree or certificate program if they know there are opportunities, and they are more likely to do it than someone with no roots here. These are the perfect long-term candidates for our employers.”
With the excitement generated in the schools as well as among employers, CEDA staff hope that they will be able to replicate the program with more school districts over the next several years and continue to provide this unique connection between education, workforce and community.