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Viewpoint: Inspiring great career choices

By Blake Fry, president of Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau

When I was in high school (let's not worry about how long ago that was), there were two educational paths offered to students, one referred to as college-prep and one that was, well, not college-prep.

College-prep meant you took a core set of math, science, and English courses. The end goal was going to college, not preparing for what your life would be like after you completed a four-year degree. Like many, this approach left me adrift and my future up in the air. I became an engineering student simply because I was offered a scholarship to be one. After quickly discovering I was not an engineer, I changed my major seven times (yes, seven) and graduated college still not knowing what I wanted to take on as a career.

Fortunately, Wisconsin's elected and educational leaders recognized that this approach not only does a disservice to students, but it has created a skills gap. Many outstanding career opportunities are being missed simply because we don't have enough people available with the education and training needed to be successful in certain fields.

Beginning this school year, all Wisconsin public school district middle school and high school students are participating in academic and career planning. A software program called Career Crusing allows students to input information to help identify interests and potential careers that tie to those interests.

The second part of this, called Inspire Connections, provides an opportunity for employers to connect with students on potential careers within their organizations and provide information on existing work-based learning and career-readiness programs.

This month, the chambers of commerce in Hudson, New Richmond, and River Falls will be hosting meetings to launch Inspire Connections in the St. Croix Valley. During these meetings, area employers will create their company's profile on the Inspire Connections portal so students can begin to learn about the fantastic career opportunities available right here at home and get a better feel for the educational path they need to take to prepare themselves for those careers.

To learn more about how this coordinated effort between educators, students, parents, and businesses will better prepare our region and our state for the future, visit www.momentumwest.org/momentum-west/workforce-development.

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