Youth Skills Training program debuts

Growing a skilled workforce in Lakeville has taken a big step in the right direction.

In 2020, the Lakeville Area School District was awarded a grant from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry to create a Youth Skills Training program to complement Career and Technical Education programming at Lakeville North and South high schools.

This program is made possible through a partnership between District 194 and the Lakeville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Students enrolled in CTE classes learn industry-specific skills and, in some courses, may earn free college credit and industry-recognized credentials. CTE courses help students and their parents make informed decisions about post-secondary education and career choices, the chamber says. It adds that the program serves the community by aligning educational opportunities with local workforce needs.

Students have a wide variety of opportunities within the manufacturing and automotive/transportation industries that provide class instruction, industry-recognized credentials, paid internships, job site tours and interviewing skills.

YST introduces high school students to paid internship opportunities that have the potential to grow a strong and sustainable workforce in the community.

Kevin Delk, owner of Delmar Company and one of the program’s inaugural company partners, thinks YST is a great way to get students on the right track.

“Our workforce is getting older, and we need people to come in and learn what we do,” he said. “They have an opportunity right here in Lakeville, right out of school that pays a good wage and offers great benefits.”

This spring quarter was the first for the program and provided five high school students to pair with three local manufacturing firms and three transportation/automotive-related companies.

Next year, the program aims to double opportunities for students and businesses.

This spring’s manufacturing and automotive industry partners included: Schmitty and Sons, Gunners Garage, Christian Brothers Automotive, BTD Manufacturing, Delmar Company and Designed Cabinets.

This spring’s 2021 YST class of high school junior and senior interns included Jack Kelley, Will Caldes, Brandon Wright, Joe McGinley and Matt Conzemius.

Prior to starting their work-based learning opportunity, students met with instructors for soft-skills training and completed the OSHA 10 course.

The students got to learn from, and work with, employees doing their daily work. They got a chance to see and hear about work/life balance and learn about different work environments.

“It was a great learning environment,” Caldes said of Christian Brothers Automotive.

“It was better to watch, than to read.” said Jennifer Nightingale, of Christian Brothers Automotive. “It was nice to see the students out of the classroom and seeing how these skills can be applied to a future career.”

YST allows local businesses to meet students entering the workforce and possibly spark some interest in a future career path, in addition to helping students and parents make a positive connection between a viable career and the fields of manufacturing or transportation.

“It is awesome to see (Kelly’s) skills improve in the time he has been here. It is also fun to expose him to a new career opportunity,” said Mike Forbord of Schmitty & Sons.

“It was a great opportunity,” said Joe McGinley, who interned at BTD Manufacturing. “There was a lot to learn and absorb. I got to see the whole process beginning to end. Amazing going from raw steel to finished product.”

“We hope that we have given (Joe) the platform to make a decision, and grow,” Abbie Torbert, a senior human resources generalist with BTD. “Trade schools are what we need to promote. Thank you to Lakeville Area Schools for building that bridge.”

Career fields within the trades are very high tech, pay well, provide benefits and community and technical colleges are affordable with students often graduating with little to no debt, as they can work in the field as they go to school, the chamber said.

“I like everything about it,” Wright said. “I like the sense of belonging, the people here are great. I’m not afraid to make a mistake, they are right there to explain it and show you. It’s been really easy to learn with two amazing mentors,” Joas Michilot and Charolett Salo, of Designed Cabinets.

Businesses can benefit from the program because they have the opportunity to engage with the next generation of workers and understand what they might be looking for in a future career. One unintended benefit is the renewed excitement and engagement employees have toward their job after spending time mentoring students, demonstrating what they do and what they are capable of.

One of the reasons that District 194 was awarded the grant was because of their partnership with the Lakeville business community, through the Lakeville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Lakeville Works program.

Lakeville Works is focused on creating awareness of local in-demand careers, with a focus on the trade industry. This program is made possible through strong partnership with the schools and the city of Lakeville, as well as a group of chamber member donors who have contributed funds for equipment, scholarships, intern and externship opportunities, and additional workforce development funding like the YST grant.

The donors who have made the program possible are Advanced Wireless Communications, BTD Manufacturing, Dakota Electric, Delmar Company, Dick’s Sanitation, Gunner’s Garage, Hearth & Home Technologies/Fireside Hearth & Home, HOBO/Triton/Chemquest, Interstate PowerSystems, LaBeau & Associates, Lakeville Rotary, Loeffler Construction, Safety Signs, Schmitty & Sons and QA1 Precision Products.

Like many industries, the transportation/automotive and manufacturing industries are undergoing a huge demand for new workers. Students who enjoy hands-on work, have the ability to maintain reliable, regular attendance, have ambition to solve problems, have the ability and willingness to communicate and adapt to changes will likely succeed in the program and related careers.

“We are very proud of the partnership that continues to make career exploration and selection possible for our high school students as they make decisions for the next chapter in their lives,” said Krista Jech, Lakeville Area Chamber president, who spearheads the program. “We want students and parents to know that there are several roads to success, and there are many business owners, managers and employees in town ready and willing to share their own life experiences as well as offer students hands-on opportunities to learn what exciting career path they want to pursue.”

Students who would like to learn more about the program should contact their dean of students. For Lakeville businesses who would like to learn more about how to get involved, contact Krista Jech at 952-469-2020 or krista@LakevilleChamberCVB.org.

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