Dec 21, 2016

Program pairs businesses with students for experiential learning

Excerpted from Lodi Enterprise

By Tamar Myers

A new program to Lodi and Poynette School Districts enlists local businesses to help students envision their futures.

“It’s a real perspective on jobs in Wisconsin,” said Todd Anderson, a counselor at Poynette High School.

Through the Inspire Madison Area program, students can explore future careers by connecting with career counselors or find experiential learning opportunities such as job shadowing, tours and internships.

Inspire Madison Region is a supplement to Career Cruising, which is the career exploration software program the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has made available to all public school districts in the state.

Beginning in fall of 2017, a state statute mandates that all sixth through 12th graders must receive academic and career planning. The Career Cruising software has resources to build a portfolio and explore different career paths, according to the DPI’s website.

“But where it’s lacking is connecting students to experiential learning opportunities,” said Gene Dalhoff, the Inspire Madison Region manager and the Vice President of Talent and Education for the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP).

And so, Inspire Madison Region picks up there.

The Inspire Madison Region program was partly founded because of local businesses’ desire to recruit future employees, Dalhoff said.

“We’ve heard from companies that are concerned about the future of their workforce right now,” he said. “They are having difficulty finding enough employees and down the road, they’re going to have more difficulties. So they’re interested in building a worker pipeline.”

Businesses choose what they offer to Inspire, Dalhoff said. They can simply appoint “career coaches” to field questions from students about the business. Or, they can go further and offer job shadowing, tours, apprenticeships and internships.

Dalhoff said participants can be contacted by any student in the Madison area. Employers designate career coaches to answer student questions.

“It doesn’t matter if that career coach is five miles down the road or 100 miles down the road,” said Dalhoff.

Still, he encourages businesses to get involved to benefit local students. Ideally, Dalhoff said students should have the chance to job shadow and work with businesses in their own communities.

“When it comes to onsite learning opportunities,” he said, “the more local, the better.”

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