The Lincoln Trail region is full of gifted students ready to make an impact in the world the moment they graduate. Unfortunately, many of these students move outside of our region to pursue careers. Others stay in their hometowns but accumulate debt to gain a degree while feeling they lack satisfactory career opportunities. Ironically, at the same time, companies in our region struggle to find skilled, available workers, a challenge that is growing daily.
To bring greater awareness to the career opportunities available in our region, the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board’s Workforce Crisis Task Force is connecting educators with employers through Work-Based Learning Opportunities (WBLOs). WBLOs expose students to meaningful, hands-on work experiences while providing employers an opportunity to train and recruit young talent.
The benefits of WBLOs are extensive for students, employers and the community at large. WBLOs retain the skilled workforce our education system helped build by giving students an opportunity to explore an array of career paths and get their foot in the door with local businesses. Employers, on the other hand, are able to apprentice young workers, expand their workforce when understaffed or during a busy season and fill positions while cutting down on training and recruitment costs. All of this contributes to a vibrant and stable local economy, connecting multiple members of our community.
At Mid-Park, we have partnered with Grayson County High School’s Technology Center to create a track pre-apprenticeship program. We started this program because our community was falling short on career pathway opportunities that teach students high-demand skills. Students in our track program gain hands-on, real-world experience they can use beyond high school. They train with our machining department doing various jobs from working with CAD software to setting up machines. Through this WBLO, we now have access to future employees we have mentored and trained from the start in our work environment and on our machines. This makes these students so valuable to us.
There are several different types of WBLOs like Mid-Park’s track pre-apprenticeship program to help companies and students get the most out of their experiences. Some students take advantage of shadowing or mentoring, while other students and companies benefit more from an internship or apprenticeship. Overall there are eight different WBLOs offered, including service learning, mentoring, shadowing, entrepreneurship, school-based enterprise, internship, cooperative education, and registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship.
Whether you are a company seeking talent or a student considering employment opportunities, the answer is in our own backyard. Students interested in a WBLO should contact their guidance counselor for assistance. Out-of-school youth can contact the Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail to talk to a career coach for assistance in finding WBLOs in our region. The career center offers Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) services to youth ages 16 to 24 who are not currently enrolled in school.
Employers can check out LTcareercenter.org/WBLO and download our “How-to Guide” that outlines WBLOs and how to assess whether or not your company is ready to participate. Starting a WBLO is easier than you think. We have also put together a contact list for the schools within our region that are well equipped with the tools to help your business get started.
Lincoln Trail community members, we need your help to continue to build this incredible region together. Help us spread the word about WBLOs so we can make sure our children have the opportunity they deserve to work fulfilling jobs in their home communities while our employers have access to the talent they need. Our entire region thrives when these needs are met, guaranteeing that our best days are ahead of us!
Trish Niles works for Mid-Park Inc., a partner of the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board. She believes in providing Work-Based Learning Opportunities because of how they benefit the student and the employer. Trish can be reached at email@example.com.