Additional Yankton School District articles:
YANKTON, SD – TruXedo, Kolberg-Pioneer, Applied Engineering
Inc., and Avera Sacred Heart Hospital. What do they have in
common? They’re all businesses in Yankton, SD . . . and they all
have a constant need for well-educated and prepared workers,
some with college degrees and many with skills certification.
Yankton School District Superintendent Dr. Wayne Kindle
and other administrators and building principals recognize the
long-term needs of local business and industry, and they’ve
been taking steps to fill the workforce pipeline. In January
2018, the district began beta testing Pitsco Education’s newest
curriculum offering, Career Expeditions, which are profiled
against ACT® WorkKeys® assessments used to determine
National Career Readiness Certification (NCRC®).
The carefully aligned career-based curriculum in Yankton
aims to inform and prepare students for both college and careers.
The district was the first location in the US to beta test the Career
Expeditions, which give middle school students a head start on
discovering their aptitudes and abilities based on not just hands-on
experiences but also on skills and personality assessments.
The goal is simple. Give seventh and eighth graders multiple
real-world experiences before they choose specific career paths
at Yankton High School that help them pick
the right post-secondary path – college, trade
school, or direct entry into the workforce.
“Some kids are not going to go on to
college. They’re not going on to four-year
degrees and that type of thing, and we want
them to understand and encourage them to know that going
into a trade field or going to a technical school for two years and
continuing to gain skills in the area they have an interest in is
good and OK,” said Yankton Middle School Career Expeditions
Facilitator Tiffany Beste. “If we start to provide them opportunities
where they get to learn some of those skills or see some of those
things now when they’re young, they’re really finding that they
enjoy them immensely.”
Middle school is a perfect time to begin discerning interests
through exploration, and Principal Todd Dvoracek says the Career
Expeditions are the perfect vehicle to deliver a comprehensive
trip. “We have a bigger picture in that career mind-set of getting
kids experience, and it’s not necessarily to master. It’s to explore,”
he said. “We want to focus on giving kids skills in many different
areas and follow along within the CTE career cluster realm.”
SEAMLESS TRANSITION TO HIGH SCHOOL
Career preparation and employability are prominent on the
radar at Yankton High School, which makes Career Expeditions a
key course at the middle school; it’s so important that it is required
for all students and counts as half a high school CTE credit.
“What’s the difference whether they learn it in eighth grade
or whether they learn it in high school? They are still learning it,”
said Beste, whose Pitsco class is titled Lifetime Career Explorations.
“And why not learn it sooner so that when they get to high school,
they’ve opened up some doors for themselves up there?”
Luke Youmans, who teaches the Technical Career
Explorations course with Expeditions, says the Pitsco courses
ensure a smoother transition into high school. “Our students
go from the career exploration work at the middle school and
move into various internship programs and a World of Work
program at the high school. . . . The businesses in town are
directly involved in our internship program and World of Work.
We are exposing and then providing real-world opportunities
for students to job shadow, train, and receive training and work
as paid employees while they’re still students.”
LOCAL BUSINESSES BENEFIT
The Pitsco Modules program has been used at Yankton
Middle School for 20 years, giving students a small taste of
real-world work, but the Career Expeditions represent an
upgrade to a richer and more satisfying meal, replete with
critical-thinking challenges and open-ended problem-solving.
“We talk about that all the time – problem-solving, critical
thinking, troubleshooting,” Beste said. “And I think the way
that these programs have been designed is definitely forcing
students to do more of that, which is really good. I mean they’re
going to learn some things when they’re working with the
robots and when they’re working with the different equipment.
. . . It definitely makes them slow down, solve some problems
before they’re even allowed to move forward.”
These 21st-century skills nurtured via team-based
collaborative experiences translate directly to the workplace
where employers are pleading for workers to possess such skills.
And then there’s the ever-growing skills gap in the trades.
“Construction is crazy around here, and you can’t find enough
people to plumb and to be electricians and to build houses,” Beste
said. “We’ve got TruXedo, which makes the coverings for trucks,
and we have Applied Engineering, which creates equipment
for airplanes. Kolberg creates conveyor belts and rock-crushing
equipment. . . . There are definitely students in our population that
we want to have stay in Yankton and fill those jobs for us.”
“These kids aren’t settling,” she added. “They’re actually
capitalizing on what their abilities allow them to do.”