Local agency to provide career planning services to school districtsThe Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training has received a $135,000 grant from the state of Minnesota for the Northeast Career EdVenture project to provide career guidance and planning services for secondary students throughout the region.
The Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training has received a $135,000 grant from the state of Minnesota for the Northeast Career EdVenture project to provide career guidance and planning services for secondary students throughout the region. Since 1974, the Office of Job Training has been providing free career development services and job search assistance to residents of Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake and St. Louis counties and is a partner in the local Workforce Center system.
“We are thrilled to be able to provide this badly needed resource as schools face diminishing funding and increased demands that may compromise a focus on career planning,” said Michelle Ufford, executive director. “Career guidance and planning is at the heart of our work every day as we help adults and youth navigate career and training options. It makes perfect sense to share the expertise of the established workforce development system with students across the region to ensure they are not only making the best choice for themselves and their future, but also graduate with an understanding of what employers expect of them as they enter the labor force.”
Ufford described the constant cry from employers about the need for individuals with the right skills and a good work ethic.
“If there is no one in the schools who can speak to what employers need, which industries are growing and declining, and ever-changing career opportunities, then students are at a disadvantage when they attempt to find their way after high school,” she said.
The Office of Job Training can help students determine potential career paths that are best suited to their interests, abilities and aspirations through assessment testing and one-on-one interviews. Career counselors can also help students identify post-secondary training options and even financial aid opportunities. In fact, the Office of Job Training receives funding each year for scholarships that pay the bulk of tuition costs for eligible individuals to attend a career or occupational training program for up to two years.
Career counselors with the Office of Job Training all possess bachelor’s or master’s degrees in the social sciences, many of whom are ex-educators themselves, and are highly trained and knowledgeable about job and career opportunities both locally and further afield. They can assist students in developing a resume and instruct them on the fine points of job searching during a time when youth unemployment rates are at historic highs.
In addition to one-on-one services for students, the Northeast Career EdVenture project will also provide activities and instruction for classes and groups on topics such as employer expectations, computer-based career planning tools, practice interviews, and more, including established curriculum from Junior Achievement in the areas of personal finance, business ethics, success skills, and careers with a purpose.
Northeast Career EdVenture will also develop opportunities for schools districts to better connect to the private sector.
“These partnerships are becoming more important as we face a shrinking population coupled with mass retirements,” Ufford said, “the business community wants to become involved with their local school but there is currently no mechanism to easily make this connection; Northeast Career EdVenture will do just that.”
Ufford explained the project will seek to facilitate business/school partnerships by coordinating mentorships, job shadowing, class presentations, work experience or internship opportunities, site visits, and participation in school-based career fairs where students are educated about what regional industries are really all about.
“One of the problems we face in workforce development is the wide-spread misperception about what today’s industries really need or what post-secondary training programs result in the best job. It’s not always a four-year degree that leads to the greatest job satisfaction or highest pay,” Ufford stated. She is concerned that students aren’t getting the right career advice and are often steered in directions that really aren’t best for their individual personality or ability. “With college drop-out rates climbing and student debt mounting, sending kids out into the world without a clue about the best career and training choice for them only results in a lot of lost time and money,” she said.
One thing Ufford emphasized is that this effort is in no way to displace school guidance counselors, but rather to assist them in their work by providing a menu of career planning services from which they can select the resources students need the most. Ufford hopes this pilot evolves into a strong partnership between the K12 system, the public workforce development system, and the business community. The service delivery system for this project is currently in development and resources will be available for schools to access later this fall. For more information, contact Michelle Ufford at 218-748-2243 or via email at email@example.com.