Grant to Pay for Work-Based Learning Coordinator

Grant to pay for work-based learning coordinator at valley school districts
By Kurt Hilderbrandt, St. Peter Schools
This article appeared on Oct. 6 in the St. Peter Herald. View article.

A collaborative effort between Saint Peter, Tri-City United and Le Sueur-Henderson school districts was recently awarded a grant that will provide funding to hire a work-based learning coordinator that will be shared by the three districts over the next two years.

Funding for the position is part of a larger grant awarded by the Greater Twin Cities United Way to a project called South Central Guided Pathways to Success. The three districts, as well as Mankato and St. James school districts, are involved in the project with Minnesota Valley Action Council, South Central College, and the South Central Service Cooperative.

The purpose of the grant is to increase equity and access for the underrepresented population in their pursuit of long-term careers, either through work experiences and/or the opportunities to earn college credit and college-like experiences. According to the grant application, “The ongoing partnership among these organizations has already resulted in positive outcomes for students and workers, and created strong collaborative ties that are particularly helpful in serving the largely rural population in our service area and addressing low-incidence barriers to career development.”

“College and career readiness is a top priority for our school district, so we are very excited to be a part of this collaboration with Tri-City United and Le Sueur-Henderson,” St. Peter Superintendent Paul Peterson said. “Work-based learning opportunities add to the richness of the school experience, and Saint Peter High School’s academies provide a solid academic foundation for authentic work-based learning to occur within the Saint Peter community.”

“Our goal for creating this new, multi-district position is to help deepen the connections between the high schools in our districts and our business communities. There are tremendous learning opportunities for students all around the region, and it has become really apparent that an active liaison between schools and the business community is a key ingredient in these dynamic partnerships.”

Tri-City United Superintendent Teri Preisler and Peterson had initial discussions about creating a position like this for the three districts when the South Central Guided Pathways to Success was awarded a grant in early 2017 of $420,000, but at the time the idea wasn’t pursued any further because of other project needs. However, when an additional $300,000 of grant funding was provided to the project to support the work it was doing, the three districts moved ahead with a request for two years of funding for this new position. The position is covered for 2019 and 2020 for about $70,000.

“It’s not just about the money aspect that helped move our request forward, it was the timing of it as well,” Preisler said. “There is an immediate need to have someone within our schools with a dedicated focus on making connections with our local business community, nurturing those relationships, and serving as a liaison to create meaningful experiences for our students in their pursuits of long-term careers.”

“We have always had a good relationship with our business community here in St. Peter, as they do at Tri-City United and Le Sueur-Henderson with their respective business communities, but there are always ways we can improve that and we feel strongly this is a good step in that direction,” Peterson said. “The three districts involved in this position also have a very positive relationship and being able to work together on this project is only going to strengthen that connection.”

With funding secured for the next two years for this new position, the next step for the three districts involved will be to finalize the job description and eventually post the position with the goal of having someone hired around the start of 2019.

“Grant funded positions can pose a challenge, but we are hopeful that the data collected over the next two years and the results that we see in terms of student learning and business connections help all our districts consider whether to continue the position once grant funding ends,” Peterson said.

If the data demonstrates success, the districts may pursue a different grant funding possibility through South Central Service Cooperative.