WorkSMART Connector named a STEM BEST Program model

WorkSMART Connector’s “Career Awareness & Exploration” program has been named a 2021 STEM BEST partner.  Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council selected it as one of 22 statewide recipients focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  The program is a collaboration of Pella and surrounding K-12 schools, Central College, area community colleges, as well as regional employers.

WorkSMART Connector introduces students to area careers by bringing experts in local occupations into the classroom, in-person or virtually.  Educators request these visits, which include interactive activities and information related to local careers.  The STEM BEST award will allow for program expansion, including activities related to engineering and manufacturing, healthcare and hospitality careers, and more.

In addition, the award will allow WorkSMART Connector to bring students from career awareness into career exploration, with additional life skills training.  Area career experts and employer volunteers will meet with student groups based on their areas of interest, to develop career vision and employability skills such as the ability to collaborate, manage time and stress, and to self-advocate.  This experience will launch in Pella, Pella Christian and Knoxville schools this fall, with additional surrounding schools to follow.

“WorkSMART Connector creates a pathway for area students to find their way into fulfilling, local careers with valuable preparation,” said Teri Vos, director of work-based learning.  “The STEM BEST award will help expedite this work, while benefitting our communities and State.”

To be considered for a STEM BEST Program partner, applicants were required to submit a comprehensive proposal that included thorough and relevant STEM curriculum, valuable partnerships with community businesses or organizations, real-world learning opportunities and expertise at the postsecondary education and training level.  Awardees will serve as models to other schools throughout Iowa.

“STEM fields offer the opportunity for a great future. STEM BEST projects allow our Iowa students to experience that firsthand while still in school,” said Jeff Weld, executive director of the STEM Council. “As these public-private partnerships grow, student success and Iowa’s skilled workforce will continue to benefit.”

Local High School Students Complete IT Certification Workshop at Central

PICTURED ABOVE: Elyse Kriegel, William Rasmussen, Central Professor of Computer Science Stephen Fyfe, Grant Alsum and Vaughn Thompson.

Four high school students from the Pella area recently completed a two-week workshop on campus at Central College as they worked toward IT certification. The workshop was part of a new work-based learning program of which Central College is a partner.

Grant Alsum, Elyse Kriegel, William Rasmussen and Vaughn Thompson took the two-week workshop at Central with Stephen Fyfe, professor of computer science, and presented their work and knowledge to area businesses at the end.

The group now has transitioned to a six-week internship at area business. Two are completing internships with Vermeer Corporation, while another is with ICE Technologies in Pella and another with Musco Lighting in Oskaloosa.

The students attend both Pella and Pella Christian high schools and are the first to go through IT Certification with the work-based learning program. All are between their junior and senior years and took prep classes at their high school.

“The goal is to build a pathway from classes in high school to the on-campus workshop to the workplace,” says Teri Vos, director of the work-based learning program. “We want to advance them toward a successful future and local career opportunities in their chosen fields.”

Students receive one college credit for the two-week workshop and another two college credits for the six-week internship. They will present to area business again at the completion of the internships.

The work-based learning program is funded in part by a grant from Future Ready Iowa, with additional guidance and support from Iowa Workforce Development throughout the expansion of work-based learning in the region. It is a collaborative community project whose participants currently include area educational institutions and employers.

Students Sign With Local Employers in Work-Based Learning Program

Career Academy of Pella hosted a virtual signing day on May 20 to welcome participants into a new and expanding work-based educational program in Marion County.

In total, 13 students from high schools in Pella signed letters with the U.S. Department of Labor to participate in apprenticeship programs in welding and engineering or made a commitment to information technology and early education certifications.

Students are paired with area businesses to enjoy paid employment while earning post-secondary credit for the training to apply toward a degree.

“This is a collaboration that is positively changing young lives, now and in the future, providing career pathways to in-demand fields right here in Iowa,” says Teri Vos, director of the work-based learning program. “Thank you to the high school students, employers and all partners creating these valuable experiences.”

The work-based learning program is funded in part by a grant from Future Ready Iowa, with additional guidance and support from Iowa Workforce Development throughout the expansion of work-based learning in the region. It is a collaborative community project whose participants currently include area educational institutions and employers.

The following are in the 2020-21 program:

Welding Apprenticeship
Brendan Van Gorp — Co-Line Manufacturing
Matthew Lunsford — LDJ Manufacturing
Jayden Jansen — Vermeer Corporation
Silas Vanderhoff  — Vermeer Corporation
Colton Downing  — Weiler Inc.
Landen Van Heukelom  — Weiler Inc.

Engineering Assistant Apprenticeship
Noah Seelye — Pella Corp.

IT Certification, ICE Technologies and Vermeer
Grant Alsum
Elyse Kriegel
William Rasmussen
Vaughn Thompson

Early Childhood Education Certification
Sydney Davis — Pella Early Learning Center
Olivia Van Wyk — Pella Early Learning Center

Area Student Completes First-Of-Its-Kind Apprenticeship in Pella

Charles Vander Velden, a 2019 graduate of Pella High School, became the first registered apprentice through the Career Academy of Pella, part of a new and expanding work-based educational program in Marion County.

“Thanks to everyone who helped me. This was a big experience and I’m glad I got to do it,” Vander Velden says. “I already liked to weld, but now I have a job I like, an education and a nice paycheck. I’d recommend it to anyone.”

In 2018, Vander Velden signed a registration agreement to pilot the program outlined in a new Registered Apprenticeship Playbook commissioned by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and supported by the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. The Playbook was developed as a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Labor, Vermeer Corporation and the Career Academy of Pella. The signing took place in the presence of Gov. Reynolds, Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, a 2006 Central College graduate, and then-U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.

“Registered apprenticeships are a proven solution to expand economic opportunities for Iowans, and Charles is a pioneer showing how students can pursue this great career path starting in high school,” Gov. Reynolds says. “Congratulations to Charles for completing a nationally recognized welding credential that exemplifies what Future Ready Iowa is all about. A heartfelt thank you to Vermeer Corporation, the Career Academy of Pella and many other partners for recognizing registered apprenticeships are an investment in our residents that also strengthens our communities.”

In completing the apprenticeship competency requirements through his work at Vermeer Corporation, Vander Velden has a nationally recognized, portable credential that signifies to employers that he is qualified for the job. Throughout his apprenticeship, Vander Velden has enjoyed employment and benefits from Vermeer and earned post-secondary academic credit for on-the-job training he can apply toward a degree. He has been working toward an associate degree in technical studies from Des Moines Area Community College, all unique advantages of this earn-while-you-learn model. Charles officially joined the Vermeer team as a full-time welder on April 1.

“High school registered apprenticeship programs combine work-based, on-the-job learning with relevant technical education in the classroom,” says Greer Sisson, state director for the U.S. Department of Labor. “(They) allow schools to find new ways to engage students that connects careers with post-secondary education, skilled certifications and employment, increasing the potential for success during and after high school. High school registered apprenticeships benefit businesses as well by providing a fresh source of talent developed from within their community and access to a larger talent pool. It is a win for everyone.”

Teri Vos recently was named the director of the work-based learning program in the Marion County area. The initiative is funded in part by a grant from Future Ready Iowa, with additional guidance and support from Iowa Workforce Development throughout the expansion of work-based learning in the region. Vos oversees various aspects of the program, a collaborative community project whose participants currently include Central College, Pella Area Community and Economic Alliance, Pella and surrounding schools, Career Academy of Pella, Des Moines Area Community College and several area employers including Co-line Manufacturing, LDJ Manufacturing, Liberty Street Kitchen, Pella Corporation, Precision Inc., Vermeer Corporation, Weiler Inc., Wesley Life and others.

The program’s goals include creation, implementation and promotion of a strong work-based student experience. Vos works with regional partners to identify new and emerging training opportunities that align with industry workforce needs. She also supports apprentices/students, employers, parents, various schools, career academies and program partners to facilitate a high-quality, work-based learning experience.