Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Local Meets Global – Connecting Area Students to Future Careers

Written by Nanci Young, Workplace Learning Connection
Kirkwood Community College

You can’t contemplate the future without considering the impact of science, technology, engineering and math in our everyday experiences, especially in our jobs.  Students in high school will be facing far different workplace demands than their parents.  And, our middle school and elementary school population need to be prepared for jobs that don’t even exist today!  The 34 school districts within the Grant Wood Area Education Agency Area 10, including Solon Community Schools, are partnering with Workplace Learning Connection (WLC) to not only ride the wave of STEM careers, but to get in front of the demand by providing work-based learning opportunities for their students.   

Area high school students are job shadowing in STEM careers and participating in class-credit student internships at area STEM businesses.  Local professionals employed in STEM careers are hosting worksite tours and going to elementary, middle and high school classes to speak to students about their careers.  To date, WLC has connected students to STEM careers over 850 times this school year.

Chemistry teacher, Jennifer Brown, Kennedy High School, explains why STEM education experiences are so important, STEM careers are growing quickly and if we don’t produce students to fill those positions, they will be lost to employees outside the US. Students are often unaware of the number and scope of options available to them, so it is important to increase their exposure.  By working with WLC, we have access to the large number of connections that they have developed with the community.”

Sarah K from Xavier High School talks about her job shadow experience at St. Luke’s Hospital, “I think that it was really important for me to actually see what an occupational therapist gets to do. I learned exactly what kind of work the job entailed, what kind of training I would need, and what the market looked like for those skills. This experience will definitely help me in selecting my major in the next couple of years.” 

Claire T, Linn-Mar High School student, shadowed a physical therapist, “I learned about the different types of physical therapy, and shadowed one kind.  It made me really interested to find out more about the rest! It has interested me to take more science classes and keep pushing towards this career path!”

Pete Kies, Lab Technician from Genencor International, explains why he participates in work-based learning activities, “I enjoy my work and I like being able to tell the kids that there are some cool jobs out there, if you have the skills and the knowledge to qualify for them.”

STEM touches a wide variety of career fields, over 75 of them explored this year through WLC’s job shadows, internships and events.   These fields span five different pathways and include careers like veterinarians and ag mechanics (Agriscience and Natural Resources), graphic designers (Arts and Communications), accountants, computer engineers and web designers (Business, Information Technology, Marketing and Management), machinists, aerospace engineering, and skilled trades (Engineering, Industrial and Technical Sciences), and dieticians, EMT’s and dermatologists (Health Sciences).

The need for STEM career education opportunities continues to grow.  This fall, Governor Brandstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds commissioned a STEM Advisory Council to grow Iowa’s commitment to bolstering STEM education, STEM innovation and to better position Iowa’s young people and the state’s economy for the future.  Workplace Learning Connection plays a role in this initiative by providing STEM career experiences to K-12 students and instructors in this area’s 7-county region.  To learn how to be a part of this wave of education, innovation and economic development, go to or become a fan of WLC’s Facebook page,

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