July 30, 2021 Academics

How career academies invite businesses to play vital roles in the community

Sioux City Career Academy students working on an engineering project
Sioux City Career Academy students working on an engineering project

More than 60 Sioux City Career Academy students participated in in-person internships last school year despite COVID’s disruptions.

At least two were offered full-time jobs and one student has received a fall apprenticeship as a chef’s assistant, says Katie Towler, principal of the academy that is part of the Sioux City Community School District.

“We’re not a temp agency. We’re not here to feed kids into any job,” Towler says. “There has to be a sweet spot—it has to be something kids are passionate about and that meets the communities needs.”

Decision-making power at the academy is shared by an advisory committee that includes representatives of business and community associations and retired professionals, Towler says.

While many CTE instructors have substantial industry experience, the members of the advisory council who are still working in their fields are more cognizant of labor trends and forecasts. The advisors will, for example, help update the curriculum and decide what equipment and supplies are needed.

“To make it a more valuable experience for our partners and for us, we’re going to vet all decisions through the committee,” Towler says. “It’s a shift for our thinking in how we operate.”

Some of the most critical programs business partners can provide are worked-based learning experiences, internships, and apprenticeships for students.

Two of the academy’s teachers spend half their time as work-based learning coordinators, contacting companies to partner with the school. A key to engaging new partners in the academy is encouraging them to visit the campus, including inviting them to hold meetings at the school, Towler adds. The academy also relies on business partners who’ve had successful experiences with students to spread the word about the school.

“Once we get them on campus and they can see the cutting edge education that’s happening here, I can guarantee they’re willing to work with us at some level.”

Click here to read the full story from “District Administration” writer Matt Zalaznick.