By Patrick Mineer
What a week! We’re just getting back from our first major conference outside of the North Dakota/Minnesota Region, the ACTE CareerTech Vision 2022 conference. This conference brings Career and Technical Education (CTE) professionals from across the Nation to Las Vegas for three days of awards, best practices, learning, networking, and an Expo. Over 6,000 attended, the largest gathering ever!
We participated in the Expo sharing a booth with our XAP, our partner for Work-based Learning in North Dakota. They built RUReady.ND.gov, the tool for career and college preparation that has been used in the state for years. Our integration of Compass into that solution and our development of a separate employer login where employers can share information about their companies, career profiles, and work-based learning with schools across the state was launched at the end of August. I want to spend a bit of time talking about Work-based Learning and the attention it’s getting.
First, Work-based Learning is taking off as a strategic collaboration between employers and schools. One third to one half of the sessions at the conference were focused on Work-based Learning in some way. For those of you that might not be familiar with Work-based Learning, it’s getting students exposed to real-world experiences with real companies before they graduate whether through job shadowing, cooperative work experiences or internships, and is intended both to help students with their education and what to do when they graduate. Students are begging for real world Work-based Learning experiences in addition to class time and educators are seeing the value, and employers are seeing this as a way to develop their future workforce. It’s a perfect alignment of goals that will help everyone plan for the future.
Second, ways of managing Work-based Learning are fragmented. Some schools have built their own solutions using Google Forms and manual processes to collect information from employers and manage how students apply. There are other solutions providing some level of Work-based Learning management, some regional players and some national players. Software providers are very keen right now to figure out how to support Work-based Learning because of the attention it’s getting, almost more so than college preparation which used to be the focus of many of these solutions.
Finally, not many providers are focused on getting employers on board to offer experiences with their organizations, both in terms of engaging and onboarding employers as well as providing them a common tool to connect with schools and students. The easier we make it for employers to connect and the more value we can show in building this new talent pipeline, the more likely employers will be to offer opportunities and the more successful they will be in developing future workforce. I might be biased, but I think that’s what sets Golden Path Solutions apart from other solutions, in that we have that employer focused experience to get connected with hundreds of schools at once. We’re also giving employers a tool that helps them connect with schools and reduce the amount of time spent finding the right counselor, teacher, or career advisor to talk to, or missing out completely on discovering that perfect candidate because there was no connection. This is an area we will continue to focus on and get better at.
In a conversation with one regional employer, if we can figure out how to make his life easier by helping him connect with thousands of students in one system vs. several, that would be incredibly valuable. We’ll be taking advantage of what we learned at the conference to see how that’s possible and how that fits into our future roadmap. The more Work-based Learning and connections we can offer, the more likely employers will find the talent they need, which we hope will lead to more sponsorships and long-term workforce development. And most importantly, our students will be set up for success with a great career with a great company.
It was a great week, and we look forward to a Work-based Learning focused event sponsored by ACTE in the spring in Atlanta, Georgia where the sole focus will be WBL. It’s that big. We can’t wait to attend, and hopefully get a chance to share the successes we’ve had in North Dakota with other states.