Pott. County EcoDevo welcomes Work Keys program for unlocking student careers

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Developing individual plans and studies to give students the chance to acquire the skills to investigate the careers and employ strategies to attune to their future career goals, the Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation has recognized the efforts of counselors in Wamego High School and elsewhere in the community to network, mentor, job shadow, and coordinate internships that 50 out of the 95 in the senior class participated in.

Executive Director Jack Allston highlights that developing that individual plan of study is the real key, as students take the Work Keys test in February of their junior year, and then wrap their plan of study into the internships that they’re going to have.

“One boy, he had a platinum, he’s going to be a process engineer and go to K-state Polytechnic. He interned at Dymax Attachments, did a fantastic job and we highlighted them on our Facebook page,” Allston said. “What we’re doing is every week, we’re trying to put a new high school intern on our Facebook page and focus on that we want people to know that these kids are digging down deep with the Work Keys scores and an individual plan of studies to develop their career pathways.”

Allston says with the Work Keys test in 2020, scores at Wamego, Rock Creek, and Manhattan High showed over 50% of students scored gold and platinum, meaning that they could handle 90% of the jobs in the United States.

Previously, Allston stated the commission wanted to hear, both from PCEDC and from Butler County, as they are developing the individual plans of study and taking the Work Keys scores, and wrapping them together in a portable electronic portfolio.

“We’re doing more in Wamego and I think part of it is because Wamego is so small with work based learning. [USD 320 Faculty] Crystal Brunner working with Jina Kugler is developing community partnerships, getting them to know the industries that are out there and doing real world applications that are project based internships and civic engagement,” Allston said. “For the second time last Friday, each of the interns made presentations to business leaders, and I just happened to be one of those business leaders, we looked at how we involve students, parents, staff, and the community in post secondary partnerships. A lot of these kids now are almost walking across the street to the Wamego Center for Manhattan Tech, and taking dual credit classes. We’re getting close to where we’re getting kids that almost get certificates, and two year associate’s degrees, while they’re graduating from high school, it’s not unusual.”

Allston points out that the work Jina and her team have done developing interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, using a program called Zello, which is career, exploration, and information-based, helps to dig down deep and serves as part of economic development.

“[The] Wamego chamber has to develop these community partnerships, whether it’s mentoring, or senior interview day. This is all part of the process,’ Allston says. “Work Keys is one step. But it’s a critical cog, that’s like taking a round peg and putting it into a round hole. I can’t say enough, the job that Wamego High and Onega have done, continuing to try to build more and more relationships. We’re five years into our strategic workforce implementation plan, we probably have to refresh it, and hopefully, we can do that with the Manhattan chamber once we’ve got everything out of the way with this pandemic.”

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Bill Bernard

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