The Workforce Series (3): Students at Businesses

workforce blog seriesAs part of the Greater Mankato Growth Talent Initiative , GMG is publishing a guest blog series highlighting the programs, tools and resources that are available in our marketplace. This series can serve as a catalog or library for businesses to address workforce issues. 


Work-Based Learning: Students at Businesses

Written by: Kim Mueller, Career and College Readiness Coordinator, ISD 77 – Mankato Area Public Schools

Mankato Public Schools is increasing career pathway exploration by encouraging students to participate in Work-Based Learning opportunities. All high school youth are eligible to participate in activities to help them explore and refine skills through this unique form of learning that takes place out of the classroom. We are excited that so many local businesses have opened their doors to help youth discover and explore their futures! Our options in work-based learning are scaffolded to provide “layered learning” for students who need additional experiences to help shape their decisions. These range from short job shadows to multi-year youth apprenticeships.

Student job shadows are 1-2 hour unpaid experiences, where students simply explore a career field by shadowing an area or person within a field of interest. All students take interest inventories to determine if this first layer would be a match for them. Last year, 503 students participated in job shadows within the district! Our Career Development Assistant, Carol Bredesen, helps students connect with willing job shadow sites. Some classroom teachers, such as AVID and Career and Technical Education teachers, are encouraging their students to shadow for classroom enrichment, once they have identified a career of interest.

Another layer of early career development is taking a course called Career Planning. This course is open to students in 9-12 grade and is the precursor to doing Work Experience for credit. Work Experience is typically a 90 hour, semester-long, entry-level job that students can find throughout our community. They apply the employability skills they learned from taking Career Planning and reflect weekly on their work.

A third layer of exploration takes a deeper dive into a career of interest by participating in a career internship or youth apprenticeship. Once students have completed a job shadow, interest inventory, and have completed a course in a related area of interest, they can apply. Students must have a teacher recommendation, have at least a 2.0 GPA, and have good attendance to qualify for these opportunities.

  • A Career Internship is a paid or unpaid experience that typically lasts around 90 hours within a semester. Students attend a weekly seminar to help build their resume, portfolio and build on soft skills. A specific internship in welding is in partnership with several manufacturing sites in our community.
  • We have three current Youth Apprenticeship opportunities: YEAP (Youth Employment Acceleration Program) in Manufacturing, Phoenix Program (MNDoT) in Engineering, and Snell Motors in Business and Technology. These students spend 450 hours per year (2 years total – up to 2,000 hours) delving into a career they are passionate about.

Each of these opportunities provides students with skills to help them in their career development and decisions about their future. It also sets them up for future success in the workplace by focusing on much-needed soft skills. Through these experiences, students are developing a network of support, that can help them long after they graduate. Students taking advantage of any of the work-based learning options are building their personal toolkit to be career, college, and life ready.


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