Redwood Falls unveils its new tech-savvy career development and training center
By Lynn Shelton
Enterprise Minnesota's Vice President of Marketing
(Lynn Shelton, vice president of marketing, Enterprise Minnesota)
Redwood Falls today becomes the next school district in Minnesota to incorporate a state-of-the-art tech facility in its schools, as it officially opened a $4 million 10,500-square-foot addition to its existing high school. Part of that remodel is devoted to agriculture, healthcare, business, and manufacturing/construction trades, according to Superintendent of Schools Rick Ellingworth.
Builders broke ground on May 24, 2018.
The training extension is called the Orrin S. Estebo Career Development and Training Center, in honor of a local attorney/philanthropist who personally contributed $1 million toward the project. The district plans for the facility include:
- A career and technical addition that provides educational opportunities for students as they enter into the workforce.
- Vocational training opportunities for students and others.
- An open environment for students to explore different curricular options.
- Access to real-world, applied learning experiences that empower students to gain the skills they need to thrive in college, career, and beyond.
Ellingworth said the project is the culmination of “tremendous community involvement.” School officials solicited input from 35 local business leaders as well as learning from Alexandria, Willmar, and Hutchinson schools that have already created sophisticated tech facilities.
“Instead of asking for dollars, we are asking for ways they feel they'd be able to help us,” he said, whether that's lending us people or money or equipment.
“We have engaged all of these folks. We're hoping they come and use the site. We're not talking about charging anything. It's a beautiful facility. Their eyes just light up when they come in here, because they start thinking about possibilities.”
Ellingworth said school officials envision utilizing it like the school’s community center, “a 24/7 operation, where there is a lot of trust, and they're on our systems, where people could be coming in, using it for all kinds of things.”
The new career and technical guidance center is fronted by a separate entrance. “It looks like you're walking into the manufacturing campus,” Ellingworth said, adding that he also moved the school’s counseling staff to the facility. “It does not look like a school. It's all open. Everything is glass, so anyone in the hallways can look in and see what's going on. We thought our kids might be distracted. The kids are so interested in what they're doing, they don't notice.”
The school district plans to make the facility available to local businesses without charge. “We're hoping they come and use the site,” he said. “It's a beautiful facility.
The district is also in preliminary conversations with Minnesota West Community and Technical College about using the facility for educational collaboratives for kids and adults during the school day, in the evenings, on the weekends, and even over the summer.
To get psychologically ready for the facility, Ellingworth closed school for the afternoon on November 21 and transported his entire staff across the street for a half-day visit at Daktronics, a large company that designs, manufactures, sells, and services video displays, scoreboards, digital billboards, dynamic message signs, sound systems, and related products. As part of that tour, plant manager Tom Quackenbush outlined concerns that manufacturers have statewide regarding the worker shortages.
Look for a story in the spring issue of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine.
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