A bridge to the workforce
BELOIT -- Everyone comes to forks in the road along their career path. A new venture wants to provide Stateline teenagers with as many tools as possible in helping them make informed choices along their journeys and/or deciding which direction suits them best.
Hendricks CareerTek is a 4,000-square-foot youth career center located on the Ironworks campus, owned by longtime businesswoman Diane Hendricks, with initial funding of $500,000 coming through her holding company and family foundation.
The effort also will rely on fostering key partnerships, such as with the School District of Beloit, Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce and the Stateline Boys & Girls Clubs, not to mention local business liaisons.
The project focuses on mentoring, educational support and programming geared to middle and high school students with hopes they become valuable assets and members of the local/area workforce, basically creating a bridge between the academic and employment worlds.
Tina Salzman, CareerTek's education and business director, has worked in the Lake Geneva, Elkhorn and Beloit school districts and is in the early stages of developing those vital relationships in this multipronged effort, one that could become a model for other districts.
"The schools do a fabulous job with our young people, but we can be a community-based organization that provides ways to extend educational opportunities, for example, with career development," Salzman said. "There are so many kids that still don't have any idea what is available to them in their own communities.
"It's an exploration of what they may want to do. We will work alongside the local educational system ... they can teach kids algebra, while we can offer enrichment opportunities or soft skills (such as how to handle job interviews, communication and teamwork)."
Officials held an open house and guided tours Feb. 22 and Feb. 23, and one of their guests was Gov. Scott Walker.
"Wisconsin's workforce is constantly evolving, and employers are struggling to find skilled workers to fill jobs in important industries like manufacturing," Walker said. "In order to bridge this skills gap, we need to get creative. Hendricks CareerTek is providing crucial services to the students of Beloit who are interested in exploring careers in high-demand Wisconsin industries. We applaud their efforts, and looking forward, we will continue to look for new ways to help our students pursue the educational and career path that is best for them."
Much of the emphasis will be promoting technological and digital skills that have become so valuable in preparing future employees. So, things such as computer coding and entrepreneurship will join strong Stateline area staples such as manufacturing, health care and construction.
Monitoring the center's success, both short and long term, will be an ongoing goal of the program to adapt and grow along with its young participants.
"We're still trying to solidify and build some of those metrics, but for example, we will follow kids as they move through the facility, whether we maintain their participation, what was the effect of a particular workshop, if they stayed in a certain career path," Salzman said.
Workforce development strategies across the Stateline area and Wisconsin focus on closing the skills gap, but particularly from workers' perspectives, it's not necessarily whether they simply obtain jobs, but good-paying jobs.
"A big part of this is helping young people become aware of what's available in their own community, their own backyard, because one goal is retaining good people and sustaining a quality workforce," Salzman said. "A big thing is the skills gap, so technology and things like robotics are big.
"We want to expose youth to many different skills, but it's important for them to see how those skills translate to whatever career pathway they're on, whether it's a four-year (college) path or not."
The center's four main service areas will be:
• Individual and small group coaching areas focusing on where to begin and determining likes/dislikes in creating potential pathways.
• Learning categories, which will feature workshops that could include many of the soft skills, financial coaching, resumes and interviewing.
• Enrichment activities, such as robotics clubs, that engage youth in fun activities but also set them on long-term goals and how they might apply in the workforce.
• Experiential learning such as job shadowing and internships or apprenticeships at a local business to help them make good, informed career choices.
Individual students have been visiting CareerTek and next week the first scheduled group will see the facility.
"Students are able to drop in as long as they are not supposed to be in school or make an appointment," Salzman said.
They can contact Salzman at 262-203-3942 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then for after-school programming and availability until 6 p.m. It hopes to offer six one-week career camps in conjunction with Blackhawk Technical College this summer.
Salzman said another important factor is the center's location in the Ironworks complex.
"This is a place for growing and emerging technology, and we wanted to capture that energy and synergy in reaching out to young people."