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Learning on the job: Externships educate teachers on career areas for their students

posted: July 09. 2018 08:11a CST
by / Jenessa Freidhof, Regional Editor |

Education continues to turn its focus to student preparedness in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math. Ensuring educators are proficient in these areas can help them better prepare their students for the many careers that require these skills.

Glen Schraufnagel, career and technical education consultant for Cooperative Educational Service Agency 10 in Chippewa Falls, said that was one reason they decided to pilot the CESA 10 STEM Teacher Externship Program this year. The program partners local businesses with area science, technology, engineering and math teachers by inviting the teacher to work at the business for three to five days in a variety of departments. The opportunity allows the teacher to learn firsthand the skills necessary for the job at hand and be able to take that experience back to their classrooms.

“The purpose of this project is to bring career-based classroom curricula to life and to build a bridge between skills-based and knowledge-based education,” Schraufnagel said.

He said through the program, teachers from the 29 districts in the CESA 10 region could apply to be a part of the paid program. Those accepted would work side by side with industry professionals.

This year’s pilot program partnered with five businesses and accepted four teachers, with one of the externships going unfilled.

Kayleigh Vantassel, a teacher in the Granton School District, worked at Wissota Tool June 12-15. Wissota Tool is in Chippewa Falls and offers precision grinding and equipment rebuilding services.

Vantassel said she chose Wissota Tool because she had no experience with manufacturing, programming or machining and wanted to learn more in order to better educate her students.

“For the 2018-2019 school year, I will be a member of the academic and career planning (team), a student-driven, adult-supported process in which students create and cultivate their own unique and information-based visions for post-secondary success,” she said. “I will help write curriculum to better inform students of the job opportunities within the 16 career clusters.”

Through her four-day experience, Vantassel said she shadowed people working in accounts payable, machining, human resources, finance, programming, management, secretary, purchasing, production, routing, scheduling, shipping, receiving and inspection.

“I learned the roles of each of these people and how they fit together to make the company run smoothly,” she said. “It was really cool to see how each job depended on the others and I really enjoyed all the people I spent time with.”

Vantassel said she would recommend this experience for other teachers as a way to learn more about an unfamiliar subject.

“This is a great opportunity to learn about careers that you know little or nothing about and to then be able to pass this information on to the students. Having firsthand experience with the job is more valuable to students and more interesting than reading about it online,” she said.

For businesses like Wissota Tool, showing what their business is about to teachers is a great way to reach the students who are their future workforce. Their company is always looking for qualified CNC machinists and they hope that STEM education in area schools can lead to a larger potential employee pool in the future.

Three other area teachers will be completing externships throughout the summer: Jeanna Burgan, Chippewa Falls agriculture teacher, working at Kerry Ingredients in Owen; Shauna Brion, Mondovi math teacher, working at Plank Enterprises; and Noah Werner, Greenwood tech ed teacher, working at MEC of Neillsville.

Submitted photo - Kayleigh Vantassel, middle, and Wissota Tool employees stopped for a photo during a training session for a vertical mill.
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