Community and industry leaders joined educators to provide input on ways Fremont Public Schools might better prepare its students for their future career.

The meeting held Wednesday at the Main Street Education and Administration Building was one step in a career readiness initiative as part of a reVISION grant the district received from the Nebraska Department of Education.

Superintendent Mark Shepard said the grant looks at the needs of local and regional industry and identifies ways the school district can partner with the community and other educational partners to meet those needs.

Shepard said the public-private partnership to create and operate Fremont Public School’s welding lab is a prime example of the type of career readiness program the district would like to replicate through the grant in order to provide career opportunities to students.

“We’re hoping that this is just one more step in a process that provides better opportunities for our students,” Shepard said. “We see that welding partnership as a catalyst, we see that welding partnership as a huge success story for our community, our school district and ultimately for our students.”

Erika Volker, director of Partnerships for Innovation, is working with the Nebraska Department of Education through the reVISION Grant process. Volker said the process allows school districts the opportunity to analyze their career education course offerings and see how closely those offerings align with local workforce and economic development priorities. She said districts can then take steps to implement course offerings to meet the needs of the community.

“The importance of your feedback today will help to give guidance and structure as to what are the courses and career opportunities for students at Fremont High School, and how they can be responsive to local workforce and economic development,” Volker told those in attendance.

Volker said the goal of career readiness is to match student interests and education to career opportunities.

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“When we look at high school or middle school curriculum and career planning, we’re not trying to find that one job that students are interested in for the rest of their life, we really want them to use career education or career planning as an opportunity to weed out the things they don’t like to do just as much as finding a passion as to what they do like to do,” she said. “We want to recognize that career education is for all students.”

Volker said the reVISION process is important because it can help solve the problem of the “forgotten half.”

A study published in 2011 by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education said nearly half of students miss out on opportunities that could better prepare them for the workforce.

“We spend a great deal of time in education on the top 10 to 20 percent of students and the bottom 10 to 20 percent of students,” Volker said. “And there’s that middle 50 percent of students who are employable and they have really no direction.

“We really need to give them some target, some direction and a future focus,” she added. “We need to help students find the right education for the right careers for them individually.”

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