Students involved in the six SHS Extended Career Experiences, also known as Career Academies, were met by a team of people from Iowa WORKS, ready to spend two days helping students develop a greater sense of their areas of interest and the tools necessary to turn those interests into post-secondary plans. Val Bonney, Iowa WORKS Training Director, coordinated the effort in partnership with Liz Kluver, Spencer Community Schools Career Coordinator.
Through the Iowa WORKS Youth Academy, students participated in several activities to help them think about and prepare for their future. Real-life experiences were present from the moment the training began. Participants were encouraged to enjoy a cookie and a bottle of water, but in order to do so, Erin Pingel, Disability Resource Coordinator for Iowa WORKS, told the students that they needed to practice their first impression skills. As they approached the refreshments, Pingel invited the students to introduce themselves to her, considering their hand shake and eye contact.
After sharing a bit of information about the tools and resources available through Iowa WORKS, students hit the ground running. Their first step was to set up a membership. Bob Becker, Business Marketing Specialist for Iowa WORKS, said that creating a membership application gets the students registered in a system that will allow them to look for jobs online. “It is actually connected with the National Job Services, so if a person wanted to look for a position in Kentucky, they can do so right from their living room by logging into www.iowajobs.org,” said Becker.
Students then took the Career Coach Assessment, which is one component of the Future Ready Iowa website that was rolled out this week by Governor Brandstad. Through the assessment, students answered questions to help them identify skills, goals and interests to direct them toward different career pathways. Staci Kleinhesselink, Employment and Training Specialist for Iowa WORKS, reviewed assessment results with the students, helping them align their primary areas of interest with job zones. With five zones for each area of interest, students could compare actual jobs with the amount of preparation and schooling necessary. The jobs ranged from little or no training, to those needing extensive education. Kleinhesselink encouraged the students to explore the Future Ready Iowa website, using specific search criteria to learn more about their areas of interest. For example, by selecting a mileage radius of a certain geographic area, students can see how many people are employed, how many estimated jobs are available, what worksites are hiring, where training is available and even information about pending retirements, all for specific areas of interest.
Tammie Galles, Employment and Training Specialist with Iowa WORKS, shared the Iowa Workforce Development Application, used by some employers who do not have their own application. Galles encouraged the students to use it as a guide for gathering information necessary to fill out an application like dates, references and achievements. She discussed resumes, cover letters and references, and also told students to create an appropriate, professional email address. After helping the students navigate through the dreaded personality test, students were excused for lunch.
After only a few short hours into the 2-day training, the positive impact was already being felt by SHS senior, Chloe Mohr. Mohr felt the assessment was extremely meaningful, and said, “I found out a lot more of my interests and what range I have. I am interested in nursing, and I have been leaning more towards getting my LPN, but after this, I am thinking about looking at more advanced options. Even though college is expensive, I can still pay it off sooner if I get a better job, so I am kind of leaning towards going for a bachelor’s degree.” Mohr is already working in the healthcare field as a CNA at Longhouse Northshire and has been there since May. Mohr added, “Even though the healthcare field can be scary, at the end of the day, even though it is a hard job, and I am working long hours, I am just happy because I am helping to change peoples’ daily lives. I try to make all of the residents smile no matter their circumstances.” Mohr was able to obtain her CNA while in high school due to a partnership with Iowa Lakes Community College and said that many of the nursing home residents and their families are amazed to hear that she is only 17 and still in high school. “You make connections with people you would have never imagined. I work hard to make their day better, even with little things like telling a resident that they look beautiful or handsome.”
Throughout the remainder of the 2-days, students focused on resume creation, interview preparation and practice and skill development. Becker believes this training is great because he feels like the wrong questions are being asked. Instead of asking what four-year college a student is going to attend, he feels the need for more emphasis on helping students to focus on what work opportunities they want and the most cost effective way of getting there. Kluver agreed with Becker, and said, “For years, there has been an expectation to go to a four-year college, and the students feel that pressure that they have to go to one. I am hoping that these programs can educate kids as to what their options truly are.”