The Weekly Report – April 11, 2022
Bemidji’s public-private partnership helps recruit the next generation of manufacturers.
April 11, 20223 min read
It was nice to get a voicemail last week from Bemidji High School’s Director of Bemidji Career Academies (BCA) and Solway Elementary Principal, Brian Stefanich, sharing the progress and results of the BCA. Over the last few years, the program has created a pipeline of trained, motivated, young employees to go into the field of manufacturing and other technical occupations.
The academy offers high school students opportunities to get hands-on experience with local companies. It is easy for manufacturers to appreciate these kinds of programs because they realize that students who participate will see great career paths, and to try to find ways to use their education to prepare for them.
Brian has been a “pioneer” in this space. He understood that workforce challenges were on the horizon and they weren’t going to get better without proactive action. He knew the best way to excite students about industries was to expose them directly to company leaders who would be eager to teach them. Many years later, his nationally recognized youth skills training program is producing quality employees for businesses throughout the region.
Bemidji Steel Company and North Central Door Company are two of the Academies’ advanced manufacturing partners. This relationship between educators and employers gives young people a chance to gain experience, course credit, and can even include a paid internship. In the last 15 months, 26 students at BCA are interning at participating manufacturing companies. Bemidji Steel Company’s last eight hires have been high school students coming from the program. In all, the program has 15 academies (another word for industries) with 22 pathways and has 700 students registered.
Most manufacturers know about other collaborative partnerships in Minnesota. Minnesota’s Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) has used its Youth Skills Training grant program to fund dozens of them over the last few years. As these programs grow in popularity, having strong community support and investment will be an important part of keeping them viable and healthy in the long term
Learn more about the Bemidji Career Academies
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