Schools, businesses hope to learn from each other

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published October 1, 1995  | October 1995 issue

For years, teachers in the Boyceville school district knew little about one of the town's major businesses, even though the company was located within throwing distance of the schools. Recently, though, the schools and the company came together to learn about each other, and now the company sponsors a marketing contest with the schools.

Those are the types of results that Boyceville school superintendent Steve Ashmore hopes to have with the new Business-Education Partnerships Project in Dunn County. The project, which encompasses school districts in Boyceville, Colfax, Elk Mound and Menomonie, began this fall and has been funded for one year by a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation and funds from other groups.

"We know we need to have better communication, and this is a step in the right direction," Ashmore says.

The Project is coordinated by one staff person based in Menomonie who arranges tours of businesses and schools for local teachers and business owners, and who encourages regular communication between the two. A database of county businesses, along with their job-entry prerequisites, is also under development. This database, which will be accessible through the schools, will not only give students accurate and up-to-date information on the local job market, but will also let the schools know what skills employers are demanding of their workers.

"This tells us: They need 'this.' Are we teaching the kids the right things?" Ashmore says.

The Project is meant to serve as an information brokerage or conduit, says Richard Best, executive director of the West Central Wisconsin Private Industry Council (PIC), a non-profit workforce development organization of business and other community members. If a business wants information on local schools or is interested in programs that other businesses or schools are undertaking, the Project can provide that information and offer guidance, Best says.

For example, in addition to linking students with jobs through its database, the Project can:

  • List businesses willing to send speakers or conduct tours. Help establish on-site training in businesses.
  • Develop study programs that incorporate work with a local business.
  • Develop teacher internship programs over the summer.

"The idea was that the partnerships could be very broad," Best says, or very specific, depending on the circumstance. "We want to investigate, learn and evaluate."

David Fettig