Fund Career Connected Learning to link students to careers

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Stela Heuschkel

Grant County is ideal for manufacturing: abundant land, inexpensive power, easily accessible transportation, but there is one area where manufacturers struggle – the need for skilled workers.

For years, we’ve struggled to find qualified people to work at Chemi-Con Materials Corporation, where we manufacture electrolytic aluminum foil for capacitors. Young people frequently aren’t aware of the opportunities here.

This year, the Apple STEM Network dedicated a full-time specialist to expand Career Connected Learning opportunities and support businesses like Chemi-Con Materials Corporation. The network established a coordinating council of 16 school districts in Grant and Adams counties to connect local schools and youth to family-wage careers in our area.

Previously, many employers weren’t quite sure where to begin outreach. Now students from throughout the region come to us to learn about career opportunities in manufacturing, thanks to the Apple STEM Network. Chemi-Con and other manufacturers are opening our doors to host regional students and teachers for tours, and even offering “Occupation Explorations,” events so parents and families can also see the opportunities.

In recent months, 171 students have taken part in a variety of employer-provided experiences learning about opportunities and training for jobs in the manufacturing sector.

One young man who attended Occupation Exploration returned a few days later for a tour, inquired how to apply for employment; he applied, and we just hired him! These events bring our schools, businesses and community together. All youth should have opportunities to learn about careers and pathways available to them locally. This is why Chemi-Con supports the Career Connect Washington (CCW) Initiative to support and scale up similar work around the state.

This vital work will help our students prepare for productive lives and help our businesses and economy thrive. We thank the state legislature for including funding for CCW in the proposed budget, and urge them to ensure regional networks are fully funded so we can continue to invest in the future of our community.

Stela Heuschkel is Human Resources Director at Chemi-Con Materials Corporation in Moses Lake.

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