Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 21, 2018

Workplace Learning sees spike in participants

Dec 19, 2017

CEDAR RAPIDS — Kirkwood’s Workplace Learning Connection (WLC), a work-based learning program for middle-school and high school students, had a 91 percent spike in participation for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) job shadows in 2017 compared to 2015 for Johnson County. WLC attributes this growth to strong community partnerships and hands-on events like STEM Institute: Find Your Spark! held December 18 – 20 at the Linn County Regional Center in Hiawatha, Iowa.

For 20 years, WLC has served as an entry pipeline for high demand careers. This career exploration resource serves school districts in Benton, Cedar, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Iowa and Washington counties. Its business partnerships enable students to learn about different careers through job shadowing, internships and special events. Kirkwood’s program is modeled by community colleges across Iowa.

“Workplace Learning Connection not only provides an opportunity to educate young people about what we do here, but promotes living and working in Iowa,” said Taylor Klostermann, Rockwell Collins program lead. “Many of our own employees started out their careers with an internship. In the past two years, Kirkwood’s program has connected us with 48 high school interns within a STEM field. And through this partnership, we provide tours for at least 300 high school students annually.”

Iowa State junior Trent Brandenburg was introduced to engineering through a WLC job shadow at Hall & Hall Engineers, Inc. in Hiawatha, Iowa. Not only did Brandenburg discover his civil engineering career path, he gained valuable work experience landing an internship with the same firm. Last year, he was recognized as an All Star of the Creative Corridor, honoring workforce up and comers.

According to Brandenburg, “When I was in high school, I knew there were a lot of different types of engineers. But I really didn’t know exactly want it meant to be one. Through WLC, I was able to job shadow and get my questions answered. It’s hard to believe the doors that have opened as a result.”

WLC’s events have proven to be effective in reaching students. Recently nearly 1,300 middle-schoolers participated in WLC’s STEM Institute in Coralville, Iowa. Due to its success, STEM Institute: Find Your Spark! will take place December 18 - 20 at Kirkwood’s Linn County Regional Center in Hiawatha, Iowa. Nearly 2,400 seventh graders will participate in interactive STEM activities led by area professionals. The two-day event is a collaboration with University of Iowa Health Care. To view a sample presentation, visit https://youtu.be/Dxxz9NlRM80.

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