‘Meaningful connections’

Marshalltown Schools officials urge local business, industry partnerships for students

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS At Marshalltown Community College’s Dejardin Hall Wednesday, Marshalltown Schools Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte, speaking, and other district staff urged local business and industry leaders to help students get work-related experiences while in school. Companies like Emerson Process Management-Fisher Controls, UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown, JBS-Swift and Co., Mechdyne and more were represented at the luncheon.

“We need your input, we need your advice.”

That was the message from Marshalltown Schools administrators, like Marshalltown Learning Academy Principal Eric Goslinga, at Wednesday’s STEM Partnership Luncheon, which hosted several local business and industry leaders.

Businesses like Emerson Process Management-Fisher Controls, Mechdyne Corp., JBS-Swift and Co., UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown, McFarland Clinic, Alliant Energy, Big 8 Tyre Center, Black Tire Bike Company and more gathered at Dejardin Hall at Marshalltown Community College for the event.

“It is extremely important for us to have discussions around workforce development,” said Marshalltown Regional Partnership CEO David Barajas, who co-chairs the Marshalltown Business-Education Alliance (MBEA). “I think we can do a better job of … helping to connect our students with the opportunities that are out there in the community.”

District Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte, also an MBEA co-chair, called for local businesses and industries to consider opportunities they may have for Marshalltown students in areas like internships, pre-apprenticeships, registered apprenticeships, job shadows and other work-based learning experiences. He also said the district works to provide students with career fair and professional classroom visit opportunities.

“We are very interested in your ideas on how we can meaningfully connect the workplace with our schools and our classrooms,” Schutte said to the business representatives.

He also discussed the district’s recently-approved Bobcat Ready college and career readiness dashboard.

“What Bobcat Ready does is, based on national research, it lays out for our kids and their parents the types of things that we believe they need to do in order to be best positioned for success, regardless of what they choose to do,” said Schutte, adding the program is set to start next school year.

Bobcat Ready has indicators for both college readiness and career readiness. Those indicators, such as community service hours, a 2.75 or better grade point average, ACT and SAT exam score benchmarks, dual-credit college classes and more, are designed to show whether a student is likely to be ready for college or the workforce when they graduate high school.

Also discussed was the STEM Best Grant awarded to MLA by the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. Goslinga described the grant, which totals $25,000, as a way “to try to build out internships, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities.”

He said it is important for students to have career and technical training experience in high school.

“What we know is that, for kids who have career and technical education experience while they’re in high school, they graduate at a much higher rate than students that don’t,” he said. “So, we see placement in the workforce as a great way to help kids get some of those career and technical education experiences … doing this work well will impact our local graduation rate positively.”

Barajas said it’s important to expose students to local workforce possibilities at a young age.

“When we talk to employers here in town, right now, and employers that we’re trying to bring into the community, one of the biggest challenges that they have is through the workforce,” he said. “If we can’t find the right people, and help businesses find the right people … it’s going to make it difficult for them to grow and expand in the community the way that we want them to.”

Schutte said he hopes students who graduate from Marshalltown Schools keep their knowledge and talents in the area.

“We want our kids, when they leave Marshalltown High School, to not only be proud of having that high school diploma, but to be absolutely confident that whatever they choose to do beyond that, they can be successful with as well,” he said. “We are super excited about the possibilities that exist for students at Marshalltown High School, Marshalltown Learning Academy, and, quite honestly, the entire district as it relates to college and career readiness, and making meaningful connections with local business and industry.”

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com