February 2022 Newsletter

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February 2022 Newsletter

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WLC Gears Up for a Busy Spring

Our winter and spring job shadow application portal drew big application numbers! We had 554 students from 43 high schools sign up for a second-semester job shadow, representing a 17 percent increase in job shadow requests over last winter. 

Students were able to pick from more than 95 career exploration days offered this spring. These career exploration experiences allowed them to explore a broad scope of careers within an industry. Some of the top requested career exploration days included FBI Career Day, Mental Health Career Day, Physical Therapy Career Day with Team Iowa Physical Therapy, Engineering and Machining Careers in Advanced Manufacturing: MSI Mold Builders, Baking and Pastry Arts Day, and Veterinary Science Day.

We are also excited to expand the number of career exploration days hosted in our rural counties. This school year we introduced 11 new career exploration days across Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Jones, and Washington counties, bringing the total number of rural opportunities to 20. Our goal is to ensure students have the opportunity to explore companies and careers available in their own backyard.

Our spring offerings were a nice mix of both in-person and virtual exploration opportunities, giving students the flexibility to choose the experience that works best for them. We look forward to an exciting and productive spring full of learning and exploration!

Career Exploration in Healthcare Continues, Even During the Pandemic

WLC students at their internshipPrior to COVID-19, WLC always had numerous job shadow days focused on healthcare. Due to the pandemic, we’ve been much more limited in our ability to place job shadow students in this field. We had to take a step back and ask ourselves, “How can we continue to provide students the opportunity to explore the broad array of careers in health science, given the limitations caused by the pandemic?” Our idea was to create a Health Careers Job Shadow Day where we would bring healthcare professionals from numerous fields to the students. This interactive healthcare fair would be hosted at the Kirkwood Linn County Regional Center and students could come meet, interact with, and learn from professionals in healthcare.

To be able to offer this event, though, we needed a partner. We reached out to our contacts at UnityPoint Health - St. Luke’s to pitch the idea and immediately got the green light from administration because they saw this as a pivotal opportunity to still get in front of students and share their expertise.

“I feel for these students who have missed out on these types of experiences,” says Lori Weih, Unity Point Health - St. Luke’s community engagement director. “While not onsite at a healthcare facility, this event is important because it gives them exposure to healthcare leaders and helps them connect their passions to real-world work.”

On January 25, 65 students attended this healthcare careers event and met with medical professionals from 17 different hospital departments to gather information, ask questions, and see some interactive presentations.

With staff shortages going up and enrollment in healthcare programs going down, there has never been a more important time to share the necessity and value of careers in health. “Knowing the urgency for more healthcare workers, not just in our community but worldwide, we knew we needed another game plan when it became apparent job shadows were not going to be able to be scheduled at the hospitals anytime soon due to the pandemic. It’s crucial for us to provide these opportunities for students to help guide them in their career exploration,” says Sue Neil, WLC program coordinator who initiated the event. “We were thrilled and very thankful when we learned UnityPoint administration fully supported having their staff come out and participate in this event. These students are our future. We need to give them every opportunity possible to succeed!”

It is through creativity and partnerships like the one we have with UnityPoint Health - St. Luke’s that have allowed us to adapt and continue to offer high-level career exploration all through the pandemic.

Former WLC Intern Pays It Forward

Female student Abby G.One of the most rewarding things for us at Workplace Learning Connection is when we have former students come back and become volunteers in our program, sharing their career and experiences with other students. In honor of National Engineering Month, we’re highlighting one such former intern.

Abby Gries, a systems engineer at Collins Aerospace, started her exploration of the engineering field with an internship coordinated by WLC at Collins Aerospace in 2015. “My dad was an engineer, and they talk about engineering in high school, but no one does a good job explaining what it is. Engineering is one of those things that you really have to see and do for yourself to understand what it is,” says Abby. “In my internship I got to work on a team that was doing customer support for some small aircraft. It was really interesting just to see how a business works because I hadn’t had a formal job before. And it was also interesting to see what a day in the life would be for an engineer. Plus, the experience opened the door for other internship opportunities with Collins Aerospace.” Abby interned with Collins for four summers, all thanks to getting her foot in the door.

“I knew from that first internship that I liked Collins Aerospace a lot as a company,” she says. “Starting from how they are with their interns and co-ops, they make you feel like you are a valuable member of the team. And now I am here as a full-time employee.”

Abby was excited to hear about the opportunity to get involved as a WLC volunteer. She volunteered as both a career speaker at Harding Middle School and a volunteer mock interviewer at Springville High School last fall. “As a former high school student who was introduced to engineering through WLC, it was great to be on the other side volunteering and introducing the next generation to engineering. My WLC internship gave me a good foundation to start from and I would like others to have that foundation as well. It was so beneficial to have people that helped and mentored me along the way, and if I have the chance to do that for other people, I think that is important.”

Washington County Ambulance Service has been an amazing WLC partner for almost a decade by hosting over a dozen interns and numerous job shadow students, speaking at many of our career events, and volunteering for mock interviews. The team has gone above and beyond in giving students interested in emergency medical services the opportunity to experience these careers firsthand. Thank you to the Washington County Ambulance team.

“Washington County Ambulance Service has had a great experience being involved in Workplace Learning Connection programs,” says Jeremy Peck, director of Washington County Ambulance Service. “With the ever-changing medical field, pandemic, and low number of individuals entering the field, we are always happy to promote EMS in a positive light. EMTs and paramedics are now being utilized within the hospitals alongside nurses, making it very difficult for ambulance services to be fully staffed. Washington County Ambulance Service would like to thank WLC and everyone who supports students interested in employment in EMS.”

Interested in hosting a student and helping develop our future workforce? Visit our Partners and Volunteer page to learn more.

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Workplace Learning Connection

Linn County Regional Center
1770 Boyson Road, Hiawatha, Iowa 52233
319-398-1041 (fax)


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