Patrick Walsh, superintendent of Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa School District and new CMMA board member, coordinated the Jamboree. Walsh saw this opportunity as an effort to bridge the gap between education and industry in preparing youth and young adults for a wide range of high-wage, high-skill, high-demand careers.
Walsh identified one of the key reasons Albany High School was chosen to host the CMMA event. “Albany has done a great job of remodeling their high school manufacturing and CTE areas by utilizing a number of different strategies,” he said.
The meeting focused on creating viable partnerships between education and manufacturing. “This meeting was a more school-centric meeting for CMMA, providing the members with a chance to learn about best practices in promoting manufacturing careers in a K-12 setting, how to forge relationships between industry and education, and grant funded opportunities,” he said.
Attendees included CMMA members, school board members, superintendents, principals, counselors and CTE teachers. An experienced lineup of individuals active in CTE in Minnesota spoke at the event. Presentations included a job market review and outlook, youth apprenticeship opportunities, Big Lake Schools’ career pathways and their Relevant Experience Apprenticeship Learning (REAL) program, and Central MN Workforce initiatives and Youth Skills Training (YST).
Tours of Albany High School were given by: Greg Johnson, Albany’s superintendent; Tim Wege, Albany High School principal; and CTE teachers. The event’s format allowed local manufacturers and educators to interact and envision programs that will allow them to expand on the CTE focus and develop more opportunities in the CTE pathways for high school students.
The time is right for education institutions to embrace local manufacturing partners. Unemployment rates are incredibly low, and record numbers of job openings are making it difficult for any business to find workers, but particularly difficult for an industry that students might not be aware of or interested in. Manufacturing is the second largest employing industry in Central Minnesota, and provides higher than average wages, yet many residents – including students – are unaware of the variety of manufacturing occupations. According to survey data from the Southwest Minnesota Career Expo, students indicate that what people typically do on the job is the most helpful information for career decision making. This means school districts need to partner with local employers to help students explore a variety of careers to find their best fit.
“The CTE Jamboree seemed to be a huge hit with manufacturers and educators,” Walsh said. “Our intention was to break down the silos that hurt collaboration between these two groups. This event was just a start toward improving these relationships.”
Feedback indicated a high satisfaction for the presenters, as well as the content. “Ultimately, our educators need to learn how their own systems are limiting CTE enrollment. At the same time, our manufacturers need to fully understand how limited educational budgets are. We need to add the equipment necessary to create first-rate experiences that get kids into these workforce pipelines, we need collaboration between these two entities,” he said
“We have never had so many educators at one of our meetings before,” said Lester Engel, CMMA president and owner of Engel Metallurgical. “It is this response that keeps us building awareness on these opportunities in our communities.” He added that CMMA offers free membership to any school district that wants to participate in their monthly meetings to build relationships with local manufacturing businesses.