By Derek Grahn

One of my favorite parts of working at Golden Path Solutions is that I get to work with a wide variety of people. One day, it is working with a school in North Dakota that is in the process of growing its work-based learning program; the next, it is connecting a company and student to discuss a Sponsorship opportunity; then, it could be followed by visiting with a local economic development authority that is interested in getting future workers to move to its community. When it comes to workforce development, the individuals and groups in education, companies, and government agencies are connected in a lot of cool ways. Over the last month, much of my focus has been on assisting with the rollout for two of our newest schools  in Minnesota (Lake Park-Audubon and Detroit Lakes High Schools) and helping organize an initiative in Fargo to help local manufacturers attract talent. Through this, one thing has consistently struck me as both extremely meaningful and essentially meaningless at the same time – the impact of our state borders when it comes to workforce development.

State borders have a lot of impact on our education systems and government agencies; funding, laws, regulations, and much more can vary greatly depending on what side of the river you are standing on. However, when it comes to employers, most couldn’t care less where you came from: they are interested in attracting high-quality workers who fit in well with company culture and bring skills and ability to the workplace. Thus, when it comes to work-based learning, particularly in our border cities or companies with multiple locations, knowing all the details and understanding some of the subtle differences can be frustrating. Insurance restrictions, child labor laws, what schools to work with… all of these have been some examples that have previously stopped employers from wanting to participate in student-learner programs.

Students want to learn how to work, and employers want future workers; having tools to alleviate any issues in terms of getting these groups connected is one of the biggest goals that we have at Golden Path.

Golden Path is working with expert partners across state borders

Through these last few months, we have been working on developing these tools to make it easy for employers to begin their own work-based learning journeys. Whether it be visiting with Julie Hersch and Dawn Ulmer with North Dakota Career and Technical Education to work through education processes across the state, or gaining knowledge from Dustin Steenblock and Troy Haugen from Lakes Country Service Cooperative in areas of work-based learning and student evaluations in Minnesota, we have been incredibly blessed to have experts who are literally helping write the book on work-based learning and career exploration across North Dakota and Minnesota. And through their knowledge, we have built tools to make it easier than ever for employers to get involved in this process.

Making work-based learning evaluations simpler for schools and teachers

As a few examples of some of the projects we have been working on, a big difference (for schools and students!) is in the area of evaluations. In North Dakota, the evaluation process is very structured. A rubric that all schools use is filled out for each student who has completed their work-based learning experience. This form is nearly identical for all school administrators. However, in Minnesota, guidelines are given from the state, and local districts make the determination on their evaluation process while hitting the targeted goals. School administrators, teachers, and employers could all see varying evaluation tools being used. This can add to some frustrations when things can be different, even if only in minor ways.

With the partnerships and tools that we have been building, schools and employers will have this process streamlined. Schools will still have the final determination for their evaluation process, but employers will have a consistent experience of how to fill these forms and evaluations out.

Another thing that we have been really excited to see develop in Minnesota is the process of reducing the number of paper forms and assisting schools in digitizing their work-based learning program. The piles of paperwork have consistently been mentioned by school professionals as a difficulty in running a program in past years. In addition to student permission forms, such as parent/guardian consent, release forms to drive during school hours, and certification forms in certain fields, schools also must keep track of workplace visits, employer insurance, and student growth plans.

Golden Path will help alleviate these issues and create an easier-to-manage process. Within the next few months, students, parents, school administrators, and employers will have a location where all paperwork for work-based learning can be completed online in one place.


Whether you are based locally in a small town in North Dakota or are spanning ten different locations across state borders, we are excited to offer you tools to make your transition into educating our future workforce easier than ever.