Work-based learning

Eastern Carver County Schools is offering a work-based learning program for students to learn about skilled trades.

Eastern Carver County Schools is offering a work-based learning program for students. They have the opportunity to learn about trades and receive on-the-job training.

Mark Lacy is the instructor for the work-based learning seminar class. There are about 12 students in the program who come from Integrated Arts Academy and Chaska and Chanhassen high schools.

While the district already had a work-based learning program for special education students, this is its first semester offering the program to general education students, Lacy said.

There is a common message that a four-year college track is the only way to success, Lacy said. However, he doesn’t think that it’s a great fit for every student. There are many more paths for students besides a four-year degree, he added

The work-based learning program offers two courses, a career seminar and a work experience class. Students are enrolled in both classes at the same time.

In the career seminar, students take a safety course and participate in career exploration activities to find out their interests and skills. The students work on job applications, letters of interest and resumes, and take company tours.

In the work experience class, students hone their employability skills and technical skills such as machine operation. Students are currently applying to local businesses, where they will be placed and start gaining experience.


Work-based learning

Mark Lacy and his work-based learning seminar class, which is held at Roberts Automatic Products in Chanhassen.

The work-based learning program connects students with local businesses. The class is currently being held at Roberts Automatic Products based in Chanhassen.

It all comes down to making things relevant for students, Lacy said. Rather than being theory based, students are learning how to operate machinery and being provided technical skills to prepare them to move into jobs, he added.

Lacy is trying to raise awareness that students don’t need to leave eastern Carver County to find a good career. A lot of manufacturing facilities are located in the community.

Lacy has seen that students in the program are excited to learn about different opportunities and see what is in their backyard. It’s an opportunity for them to dig into what type of career they might want to do, he said. Going forward, he hopes that more students get involved in the program.

KNOWING OPTIONSThe work-based learning program is funded by a two-year grant for $99,000 according to Lesley Wyman, grant manager. Part of her job is to help pair students with companies so they can get on-the-job experience and earn high school credit, all while being paid for their work.

Wyman echoes many of Lacy’s sentiments about the four-year college path. She is motivated to change the false narrative that a college degree is better than being an electrician, welder or machinist. She emphasizes that it is a level playing field.

According to Wyman, it’s a good time to get into a skilled labor or manufacturing position. Wages are high, there are ample overtime opportunities, good benefits and great retirement plans, she said. In fact, some skilled laborers make six-figure salaries. Many companies are even willing to sponsor people to work for them and will pay for the employee’s technical school tuition, she added.

According to Wyman, research points to a shortage of skilled workers by 2030. Even now companies are having a hard time hiring.

“The companies … are telling me that they’re literally just recruiting people off the street,” Wyman said.

When looking at having a good career, something enjoyable that someone can support a family with, get vacations and save for retirement, skilled trades meets these points, Wyman said. In many cases, skilled trades and manufacturing industry workers’ annual incomes rise above four-year college degree holders, she added.

“I think that everybody needs to know what all of their options are,” Wyman said.