Career Pathways on display at BHS
Thursday, April 12, 2018
Sun This Week (April 12, 2018) - “I work on teachers’ cars for a $40 flat (hourly) rate,” said Wolfe, who is in the engine and automotive technology pathway, one of 14 BHS offers. “Half of the money goes back to the school so we can buy tools we need, and the other half goes to me to buy tools for my post-secondary education. I’m going to be a diesel mechanic, is what my plan is.”
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith came to BHS April 6 to see the Pathways model up close. The Minnesota Democrat, a member of the Senate Education Committee, has focused on workforce development and co-sponsored a bill to create a federal grant program supporting more partnerships between two-year colleges and businesses.
She praised Pathways for giving students a chance to explore careers and tailor post-secondary education plans at a time when many business owners tell her they worry about finding enough skilled people to fill the jobs they’re creating.
Before Pathways, BHS students were “very disconnected from really thinking about their passions and interests,” Principal David Helke said during a roundtable meeting with Smith.
“We want our students to leave with a plan,” said Cindy Amoroso, superintendent of Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191. “Our former model was students plan on graduating from high school, but we’re trying to flip that to students will graduate with a plan.”
Unveiled last year, Pathways is part of the district’s VisionOne91 redesign that followed voter approval in 2015 of funding to expand and upgrade the high school and boost technology purchases. The 14 Pathways are grouped under Health Science/Human Services; Arts, Global Communications and Information Systems; Design, Engineering and Manufacturing Technology; and Business, Management and Entrepreneurship.
Pathways programs have attracted partners such as the Walser Foundation, which donated $200,000 to an automotive program now located in a retrofitted bus garage stocked with advanced equipment.
Students have taken field trips to Walser Automotive Group dealerships, and Walser professionals have come to Burnsville to speak to the students, said Nancy Warner, director of the Walser Foundation.
“We actually have more space (at school) than some of the independent shops I’ve seen,” Wolfe said.
A new partnership next year will link the health sciences Pathway with the Burnsville Fire Department to expose students to the field of emergency medicine.
Students will ride along with firefighter-paramedics, Assistant Fire Chief Brian Carlson said.
“The reality is, there is a shortage of paramedics in the state of Minnesota and nationally, so for us to be able to introduce students to the profession and teach them about the requirements to enter the program — the physical requirements, the job demands, to make sure that it’s something they want to do — we think that it’s going to open a whole lot of doors for us,” Carlson said.
Also offered through health sciences is a certified nursing assistant program that prepares students to take a state certification exam.
Sundus Farah took the health care core curriculum class her first semester and is now in the nursing assistant class.
“I want to be very honest — you do a lot of things in that class that get you out of your comfort zone, that give you a taste of the real world, and it’s like, you either do this or you don’t,” said Farah, who hopes to attend medical school and study opthalmology.
Pathways courses give students a chance to pursue interests but also reject fields they find unappealing, she said.
“We want to make sure that our models do not lock the student in,” Amoroso said.
Senior Fiona Chow, who helped found a Women in STEM club at the school, is following the engineering, design and technology pathway. She said some female students feel intimidated in the male-dominated classes.
“We’re slowly growing in numbers,” Chow said.
STEM career opportunities await, said John Powell, a senior project manager at WSB and Associates, a 400-person engineering and technology firm.
Engineering specialists, even with two-year degrees, are in “very high demand” and can make $50,000 to $60,000 right out of school, Powell said.
“What we like to stress when I talk to classes is that you don’t need a four-year degree to go into a STEM field,” he said.
Finance and marketing have captivated Emma Hovde since she was an eighth-grader helping to plan the Firefly Credit Union branch that opened last year at BHS. With a corporate headquarters located near the school, Firefly has been a faithful Pathways partner.
The BHS branch of the nonprofit credit union provides real-world lessons in financial literacy, a topic all freshmen study in the required “Success 191” class. The branch, staffed by students employed by Firefly, is more of a “self-help technology” center than a traditional bank with a teller line, said Marty Kelly, Firefly’s chief marketing officer.
“Our kids are getting to find out that Firefly’s not just where I go put my money and take my money out,” business and finance education teacher Michele Carroll said. “There’s all the business aspects behind it. They have helped us bring in speakers, they’ve helped fund different things.”
Smith said BHS students are getting “fantastic exposure” to career options, something missing from her high school days.
“I was saying to Emma that she’s having the benefit of taking some classes in finance and entrepreneurship that I didn’t have until I was in graduate school,” said the senator, a former marketing executive at General Mills who later launched a marketing and public relations firm. “That’s great.”