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District 196 introduces students to the wide variety of career paths

At a booth for heat and frost insulators, students got to make a football out of insulating material.

When the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District surveys its students about their plans after graduation, they get a lot who say they plan to attend college, several who mention a two-year school and some who plan to go straight into the work force.

Very few students mention apprenticeships, but that’s something the district hopes to change.

On Feb. 12 District 196 worked with a nonprofit called Construct Tomorrow to introduce students to a career path many don’t even know exists. The event, held at Dakota Hills Middle School, featured 14 stations with information about trades like electrician, ironworker and heat and frost insulator. Students learned about the careers, and about the paths they have to take to get there.

About 325 students showed up. Most were from District 196, but there were a few from Burnsville and Lakeville schools and a handful from Farmington.

Nandi Rieck, the district’s federal and state program specialist, was happy with the response. She believes introducing students to trades like these is important because there is a gap in the workforce and, as a result, there are opportunities for students to make a good living shortly after they leave high school.

“It’s a need, and because the need is becoming greater and greater, the demand for workers, the salaries are going up,” Rieck said.

Rieck said in many cases students simply don’t know the apprenticeship path is available to them. She herself knew little about apprenticeships until she took her current job.

Last week’s event seems to have opened a door for more information, though. Schools within the district have already started looking at ways to bring some of the Construct Tomorrow representatives to events like parent conferences or STEM fairs.

Feedback from the event suggests it opened students’ eyes to new career opportunities, and Rieck said the event did a particularly good job of attracting women and minorities, groups that are typically underrepresented in the trades.

“It really, I think, opened up a lot of different avenues for other groups,” Rieck said. “I think it’s opened up some brainstorming into how we can incorporate some other groups.”

Rieck said the district has already started talking about holding the event again next year.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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