7/24/2017 10:09:32 AM
Luke Greiner, Mark Schultz
To help make the most of an increasingly tight labor market, educational institutions in Southwest Minnesota are getting creative. For example, the Southwest West Central Service Cooperative (SWWC) was recently awarded a $3 million grant to help implement new projects in areas like information technology, manufacturing and engineering, mechanics, carpentry, entrepreneurship and medical careers.
One iteration of this innovative approach responds to the region's booming health care industry. "This program has been years in the planning, but may now serve as a new model for delivering career and technical education courses in the region," said Tom Hoff, career and technical project coordinate for SWWC. "It is a program that matches regional labor market needs, gaps in the courses that high schools are able to deliver, and student interest in elective courses."
Many of these programs involve collaboration among multiple schools, who come together to benefit students and local employers. Students from Yellow Medicine East, Montevideo, Lakeview, Renville County West and MACCRAY are attending a medical careers class being taught at the Minnesota West Granite Falls campus; with similar courses being set up at Minnesota West in Luverne and the Windom Hospital (Image 1).
Information Technology Concepts courses are scheduled to be taught through the Granite Falls and Jackson campuses of Minnesota West, while an Introduction to Manufacturing and Engineering program is slated to be taught in Granite Falls. These courses include hybrid classes, with some of the instruction provided onsite, some delivered online, and some enhanced by community-based experiences.
Likewise, real-world experience is the key to a new "CEO" program – creating entrepreneurial opportunities – that is being started at several schools including Adrian, Edgerton, Hills, Luverne and Pipestone. Modeled after the extremely successful Kandiyohi County CEO program, the idea is to encourage students to become entrepreneurs and contribute to the economic development and sustainability of local communities.
Another innovative idea in career and technical education has been unearthed in Pipestone, where the Pipestone EDA plans to buy unsightly houses and underwrite the material costs for remodeling them, then Pipestone High School and Minnesota West carpentry students provide the labor in a hands-on learning opportunity. In that manner, the program is beneficial for everyone involved and makes the most use of limited funding.
So far, the existing CTE programs have been developed using local school district funds and small grants from the Southwest Initiative Foundation and Minnesota Carl Perkins Leadership funds. But the region's CTE program development will receive an extra boost over the next few years though the successful passing of a Rural Career and Technical Education Consortium Bill. The SWWC and its college and workforce partners will receive $3 million dollars over the biennium to expand programs for students in the region.