Before coming to Faribault Public Schools as the director of teaching and learning, Ryan Krominga spent three years in Shakopee serving as a curriculum coordinator. On Wednesday, he returned with a group of 15 Faribault industry and education leaders to look at how Shakopee High School has successfully partnered with local businesses while implementing career pathways into its curriculum.

Faribault Public Schools and the Faribault Chamber of Commerce, partnered in organizing the event, attending the tour with representatives from Mercury, Sage Glass, MRG Tool and Die, Tru Vue, Daikin, K&G Manufacturing, Faribault Foods and South Central College. There, they talked to students, staff and the curriculum director, and met with Shakopee’s engineering and manufacturing industry council over the course of two hours. Members of the council, who represented businesses throughout Shakopee, explained the variety of ways they partner with the school: Sponsoring the academy, helping design the courses and programs, donating equipment, advising staff on industry trends, bringing staff members into their businesses for externships, and providing internships and serving as mentors for students. All the Faribault attendees expressed interest in partnering with the school district around future engineering, manufacturing and technology pathways.

“It’s important for us to have schools and local industry on the same page in order to best prepare our students for the world and workforce that they are entering,” Krominga said. “In Shakopee, we built programs of study that were based on industry needs in the area, and on student interest. We knew we needed to have both in order for the programs of study to be successful.”

Engineering and manufacturing is one of six academies Shakopee High School offers students. Other options are arts and communication, human services, business entrepreneurship, health science and science and technology. Within those academies, each student selects their own three-course pathway, which includes an introductory course, an intermediate course and an advanced course. These pathways provide a more customized experience for students, whether their goal is to gain college credits, gain experience through an internship, or earn a certification that will help them leave high school career-ready.

On Wednesday, the Faribault group observed an intermediate class in the health science academy where students were working toward a health aid certification while gaining credits to Normandale Community College. A local hospital helped design the simulation lab classroom and donated equipment. Many of the students said they wanted to become nurses, and that their academy experience would have them closer to that goal by the time they graduate.

In an advanced class, Engineering Design and Development, a student told the group the academy pathway he’s on helped him pursue his interests and realize he wanted to continue with engineering as a career.

“These classes could spark something in a student and have an impact on the rest of their lives,” FHS principal Jamie Bente said. “We talk all the time about preparing students for life after high school. We want to give them more opportunities to take classes related to things they’re passionate about and build skills that will help them after they graduate.”

Faribault High School currently offers two full pathways in automotive and business. The Teacher Cadet Academy began offering a second class this year and will eventually expand into a full pathway, as well.

The major hindrance to adding new pathways is the current six-period schedule. FHS is the only school out of 12 in the Big 9 Conference still operating on a six-period schedule, which means FHS students have a larger portion of their day filled by state-required courses than students at other schools. The current schedule already forces over 100 students to take summer school every year because there aren’t enough spots open for them to take multiple electives like music, health and foreign languages. Shakopee’s 4x4 block schedule means students can take eight classes at a time, which allows them to take more electives and pathways classes, and participate in more internships and off-site learning opportunities with local businesses.

“The Faribault community is very similar to the Shakopee community and we can do some of the same things in Faribault, but we need to ensure we have the time to offer students more options,” Krominga said.

On Nov. 5, the community will vote on an operating levy that would provide funding to institute a seven-period day at Faribault High School and additional student support and transportation. For more information go to Faribault.k12.mn.us.

“Students do not have the room in their schedule, especially in their 9th and 10th grade years, to actively participate in a pathway or academy model that Shakopee or Alexandria currently have,” Bente said. “Adding another period on to the schedule will allow them to take advantage of more opportunities and experience more areas they may have an interest in.”

If the levy passes, two academies the district plans to focus on are engineering, manufacturing and technology and health and human services because of the growing need for employees in those industries not just in Faribault, but across the state. The Minnesota Department of Economic Development projects that, in southeast Minnesota alone, over 100,000 new jobs will be created in these fields by 2026.

Robin Schmidt, human resources director at MRG, attended Wednesday’s visit to Shakopee. She was impressed by the opportunities the school offered students and said all the pieces are in place for Faribault to do something similar.

“I think this would put us one step above and make us a model for other communities in southern Minnesota, if we all work together and try to simulate what’s going on here,” she said. “We’ve got the high school interested, the chamber is engaged and involved, clearly the businesses who showed up (yesterday) are interested, and we’ve got South Central College. It’s going to take all four groups working together.”

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