Business and education leaders took the first step Tuesday in an initiative to help students prepare for the workforce.
About 60 people from Brainerd, Crosby, Ironton, Pequot Lakes and Pillager participated in a business education summit at Central Lakes College.
"This (meeting) was very effective and it brought many key stakeholders together to really focus on the issues and to come up with solid ideas for improving collaboration for the benefit of the students and the whole community," said Lisa Paxton, chief executive officer of the Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce. "We're at an appropriate time with these discussions with employment changes and with career and bachelor degree training."
Paxton and Patrick Swarthout, regional coordinator with the Central Minnesota School to Work, worked together to bring everyone together.
Both the business and education representatives expressed that they were interested in working together.
"Partnerships are a way of the future," said Joe Birmingham, president of Central Lakes College. "Having success in the future is working together."
Brainerd Superintendent Jerry Walseth said he strongly believes in both groups working together and sharing resources.
"We owe it to the kids and the community to connect kids to the world of work," said Walseth.
Dave Johnson, of Anderson Brothers of Brainerd, said businesses can help educators with simple tasks, such as mathematics. He said when students ask teachers when they will ever use a certain mathematics formula again, a business representative can come into the classroom and explain how it is used in the workforce.
The goal of the summit was to form a task force to work together on issues related to school and work. Swarthout said a committee of 12 will be formed in October and the goal is for a plan to be completed by March.
The plan will consist of four main areas -- policies, administrative direction, considering changes at the local levels and ways to share resources among school districts.
They said there needs to be a change in policy regarding academic and technical training. A study of northern Minnesota showed that 24 percent of the jobs require a bachelor's degree or higher, 26 percent require post secondary or an associate's degree and 49 percent require job training or work experience. The study also showed that 33 percent of high school graduates enroll in a four-year degree within six years following high school.
The group agreed that businesses need to change policies and allow students to work as part of a student's curriculum. The group also agreed that communication between K-12 and post-secondary education needs to be improved.
Administratively, the group said retraining and flexibility of all education staff will be necessary. Phil Johnson, Pillager superintendent, said districts will have to rethink their attitudes that all students will not be college bound.
In order for school districts to share resources, Kent Montgomery, Brainerd School Board member, said the committee should develop a marketing plan that would focus on parents, students and employers and a partnership. Montgomery said communication is a key.
Mike Kneeland, Crosby-Ironton School Board member, said school districts could share instructors who teach skills, work and technology-related courses, to help with costs.
Don Bargen, a consultant, facilitated the meeting.
Sponsors of the summit were the Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp., Cuyuna Area Chamber of Commerce, Initiative Foundation, Brainerd Workforce Center and the Brainerd and Pequot Lakes chambers of commerce.
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