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Partnership Benefits Businesses and Schools in Ames, IA

Students in the Heart of Iowa can gain valuable experience through work-based learning efforts.

By Teree Caruthers on June 9, 2022

Gilbert High School in Iowa
Debbie Gray

The key to keeping a steady stream of highly skilled talent flowing to employers in Ames and the Heart of Iowa lies in the success of innovative public-private workforce development partnerships that help guide students toward those high-demand jobs.

The region’s public schools, colleges and universities work with area businesses to introduce students to local career pathways and provide work-based learning experiences that better prepare them for the workforce.

EDGE program at Boone High School
Boone Edge

Giving Students an EDGE in Boone

The Boone Community School District’s EDGE Continuum, for example, engages students in work-based learning that taps into students’ individual passions and interests while supporting career preparation and training.

The high school module encompasses six levels, including a pre-apprenticeship partnership with Kruck Plumbing and Heating and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Iowa as well as Advanced coursework, mentoring programs and work-based projects.

“The Boone district does a really nice job of giving students multiple pathways to access — not only awareness, but also experiences that help their career goals,” says Lindsey Hyman, Boone High EDGE coordinator. “The economy right now is seeking workers in skilled trades and workers who have collaborative problem-solving skills. Our program helps with career readiness by equipping students with those life skills, such as communication, flexibility and adaptability.”

Hyman points to the pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs as proof EDGE is working. Of the 11 interns placed with companies in high-demand fields, nine were hired as full-time employees.

“This is definitely a partnership between all of our local entities in Boone and Story counties, including the Chamber of Commerce. Our goal is to educate and build those skills for our local workforce. We want students to be able to stay in this community and contribute back to the economy, and we want businesses to be able to come here and find a talented workforce,” Hyman says.

Future Ready Boone & Story in Iowa
Ames Chamber of Commerce

Future Focused in Ames

Future Ready Boone & Story, launched by the Ames Chamber of Commerce, is another example of the powerful public-private partnerships that work to build up the region’s workforce. Through the program, local employers partner with schools to introduce students to career opportunities and even give students real-world work experiences.

“We have an opportunity to showcase a wide breadth of opportunities to students at a very early age. Whether it be a guest speaker in a classroom or a class tour of a company or a job shadow or mentorship or a mini internship, we are trying to build those relationships between students and our local businesses,” says Brenda Dryer, senior vice president of the Ames Chamber.

Dryer says the program’s experiences cover a wide range of potential career interests, from agriculture and construction to computer science and fashion design.

“We believe we have enough diverse job opportunities that our students shouldn’t have to leave this region to take a job as, say, a computer analyst or financial planner,” she says. “The Future Ready initiative is really about making sure students understand that and also get some real-world experience in the process. In a world where we have more jobs than people immediately available to fill those jobs, we know that one of the key strategies that’s going to allow us to continue to grow is to have an eye on the future.”

Gilbert High School in Iowa
Debbie Gray

Externships in Gilbert

In fall 2022, the Gilbert Community School District will launch the Employability Through Externships program, which will allow juniors and seniors to explore their career interests while completing projects for local businesses. Students will engage in real-world experiences that will expand their skill set, build their professional network and see their work being implemented in a professional setting. Students will also engage in resume building, mock interviews and job shadow opportunities.

Partnering Together for the Future

The Ames High Business Engagement Collaborative was started in 2016 as a collaboration between the Ames Community School District and Iowa State University (ISU) to help fill the talent gaps within ISU’s Research Park tenants. The goal is to engage students in high school in hopes of steering them toward high-demand fields. Students work with businesses to complete projects, which teach them about project management, communication and entrepreneurship.

“This program was started due to the demand we were seeing from research park tenants; they wanted access to talent earlier than we could give it in a traditional four-year college setting,” says Alison Doyle, chief relationship officer for the Iowa State University Research Park.

The projects often bring a return on the investment of time back to the company and give their brand critical exposure to students, Doyle says. “Our students gain real-world experience and learn soft skills that are so critical in professional workplaces,” she says.

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