Guest column: Connection with students key for workforce 

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Guest column by Kim Nelson

One of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce’s committees is the Chamber Business Education Collaborative (CBEC). As introduced in August, the CBEC will be sharing information monthly with readers that will include the career fields within our community, future trends within these industries and information about education, wages and growth within these fields. It is our goal to increase awareness on the amazing career fields and careers right here in our county. We hope to educate the readers on what types of skills and education is needed for those career types in hopes of helping local employers fill vacant positions and strengthening our local workforce.

Kim Nelson

To set the stage for our columns throughout the year it will be important to start with the connection to education that is available to upskill the workforce for careers that are in high demand and offer a high wage.  It is important to have strong partnerships with community stakeholders that include industry partners and the local school districts. It is also important to work closely with agencies like Workforce Development Inc. These strategic partnerships help mold the programming and education for our future workforce. Some examples include placement events, internships, apprenticeships and job shadowing. Local schools also work hard to spread awareness through career exploration days, field trips to local industries or worksites, and experiential learning opportunities.

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Another goal the committee has is to assist in educating the public on pathways students have available to them to reach their career goals. Students have many options to persist and complete the education necessary in their chosen pathway. Some students may decide on a career that requires a four-year degree. Many local options are available through transfer pathways at our local community college, Riverland Community College. Other students may decide on a career that requires a certificate, diploma and/or degree in their chosen program of study, which can be offered local or through the regional connection to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. There are also those students who have decided to enter the workforce immediately. They have the ability to gain additional skills through their company or customized training that is offered through local agencies.

The CBEC continues to support the work of the local public school on career exploration. Working closely with the counselors on concurrent and PSEO programing opportunities is one of the ways the committee supports the transitions from school into the workforce. An opportunity that is coming up on Oct. 14 is the ALHS Career Exploration Fair. The goal of the career exploration fair is to provide career exposure and exploration opportunities to ALHS students. Industry partners will have the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences of their career field. Additionally, they will promote their business, recruit new talent and assist in bringing back ALHS graduates to the area.  If you are interested in participating, contact Jess Hatland: Jessica.hatland@alschools.org 507-379-5360.

It has been such a great opportunity to share with you a little bit about the work of this committee, and it’s support of education in the area. As a school board member, an employee of Riverland and lifelong learner, I am proud of the work this committee has done and will continue to do for our future workforce.

Kim Nelson is the director of Career and Community Connections at Riverland Community College, a District 241 School Board member and member of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber Business Education Collaborative.