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Tri-City United students in the introduction to business class are interested in job shadowing opportunities in a wide span of trades, including various engineering occupations. (Metro Creative image)

Going into a business and asking questions is a big deal for high school students and sometimes a little intimidating.

A workforce development program at Tri-City United High School takes some of the strain off students as they consider the career fields they might want to enter.

TCU business teacher Stacy Lindblom said students as young as ninth and 10th grade are becoming more integrated into the pathways program, which allows students to take classes relevant to their specific career options. So this year, quite a few of those students want job shadowing experiences.

Between her two sections of her introduction to business course this year, Lindblom wants to place between 40 to 50 students in workforce opportunities.

“Last year we were able to place almost all of them but two into an eight-hour job shadow, and the kids really enjoyed it, getting out into the workforce,” Lindblom said.

During the pandemic, Lindblom said four-hour job shadowing might be a more realistic goal for her students. Health and safety protocols prohibit field trips this year, so students may not have the same opportunities to step inside the workforce environments they want to explore. Job shadows are possible depending on the companies’ own protocols, and employees can get creative with virtual presentations.

Manufacturing companies may even send construction pieces to the classroom for project-based learning. Minnesota Millwork, for example, plans to provide project-based demonstrations in school with donated materials. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) also plans to do a project-based demonstration and potential job shadowing.

Lindblom surveyed her students to find out the career paths they want to explore. Her students showed interest in a wide variety of fields and subjects, including fish hatchery, equipment dealership and sales, electrical work, construction, architecture, and various types of engineering. Finding registered nurse work had always been challenging, Lindblom said, but she hopes to find some virtual opportunities for students this year. A couple students also want to learn about business ownership, accounting, real estate, teaching and childcare. One student even wants to learn about being in the U.S. Army Airforce.

Another TCU teacher, John Head, is also on the hunt for workforce development opportunities with local businesses and manufacturing companies. Head teaches principles of engineering, introduction to engineering design and computer integrated manufacturing.

“Anything to get those students out into that engineering world, he would be open to,” Lindblom said.

In finding businesses willing to participate, Lindblom said she’d like to prioritize the Tri-City area but won’t limit the radius if students find options in neighboring towns like Mankato, which isn’t far from Le Center, or Northfield, which is close to Lonsdale students.

Workforce Development Coordinator Danielle Duffey said TCU started the workforce learning program last year with a previous employee, and she’s expanded upon the pre-existing relationships and met with TCU schools to determine the students’ goals this year.

Duffey’s grant-funded position represents St. Peter and Le Sueur-Henderson schools in addition to TCU. Since teachers’ busy work schedules reduce their time to seek out business partners, Duffey meets that need by working as a mediator.

“We’re doing a lot of good regional work to engage students and families to continue to live and work in the region even after they graduate from school,” Duffey said.

While Duffey has already contacted a number of regional companies and businesses to find out their interest in participating in the workforce development program, she’s open to hearing from workplaces she may have missed. Those interested in becoming involved may contact her at dduffey@mnscsc.org or call 507-388-3675.

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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