Skilled programs are giving students a solid foundation for future careers.
A driving force behind the Oshkosh region’s vitality and economic growth Adopt-a-Highway cleanup program is a diverse and talented workforce. Thanks to the work of public and private schools as well as higher education institutions, the region has developed a pool of talent that not only meets the needs of businesses, but also serves the community. Building the community through education is a motto the Oshkosh Area School District works diligently to uphold.
Beyond High School
“One of the goals of this school district is to ensure all students are college, career and community ready, so we have three areas of focus: career exploration, financial literacy as well as life and career skills,â€ says Vickie Cartwright, Ph.D., superintendent of the Oshkosh Area School District.
Cartwright says beginning in sixth grade, students are exposed to career pathways available in the community, and the district stresses life skills, such as financial literacy, and soft skills, such as resume building and interviewing.
These are skills Cartwright says students will need to be successful and productive employees and members of the community. In addition, the district’s Caps Communities Program allows students to engage in a service project to learn leadership and civic responsibility.
Learning to Lead
The city’s private schools also incorporate community service into their curriculum. At Lourdes Academy, students as young as elementary school participate in service projects, such as collecting food for the local food pantry, sending cards and care packages to military personnel, and delivering May baskets to neighbors. Middle schoolers volunteer for the Adopt-a-Highway cleanup program and other community projects, and high school students have numerous opportunities for community involvement and are required to complete a minimum of 75 service hours to graduate.
“Their volunteer experiences expose them to needs within the community and provide them with the opportunity to respond to those needs,â€ says Karen Boehm, director of advancement at Lourdes Academy.
Like Lourdes Academy, Valley Christian School also requires students to complete community service hours – 80 in total – to graduate. Select high school students are also invited to participate in the Chamber’s Youth Leadership Oshkosh program, which gives students an up-close-and-personal look at the community as well as its resources, opportunities and challenges in hopes of inspiring future leaders.
Serious About Service
Fox Valley Technical College‘s (FVTC) curriculum is fluidly designed to meet the ever-changing needs of regional employers. Each year, about 2,500 FVTC graduates enter the region’s workforce, in addition to leading the way in providing essential services to its communities through training in public safety disciplines, like law enforcement, emergency medical services, firefighting and more.
Not only that, but FVTC offers more than 45 student clubs, numerous volunteer opportunities in the community through its Student Life department, and more formalized approaches to giving back by way of service-oriented learning.
“BizSquad is one example of a major annual community initiative that involves FVTC students giving of their time and talent in a service-learning capacity,â€ says Christopher Jossart, manager of media relations at FVTC. “In BizSquad, nearly two dozen business program students form teams and adopt projects in the community that help nonprofits and small-business owners advance key initiatives. In all, BizSquad students have donated their expertise to more than 30 businesses since its inception five years ago.”
The University of Wisconsin (UW) Oshkosh plays a major role in developing the region’s workforce.
Elizabeth Hartman, executive director of economic development and community relations for UW Oshkosh, says the university educates students who often stay in northeast Wisconsin after graduation and enter the workforce. Of the students who are already from Wisconsin, she says more than 88% remain in the area after graduation.
“There are a lot of things we do to try to connect our students to the community to get them to be ‘sticky.’ One thing we do in the fall is host an event for returning students called Taste of UW Oshkosh, which allows students to see a variety of aspects of our community, and area businesses and organizations showcase what they have to offer our students,â€ Hartman says. “This is designed to help the community get connected to students and help our students get connected to our community and get them thinking about staying after they graduate.”