New program will support students pursuing high-demand jobs

The program, made possible by a $2.8 million grant from the Charles E. Lakin Foundation, will provide mentoring and support services to help prepare students for careers in building trades, manufacturing, health care, information technology and automotive and diesel technology, a press release from Career EdVantage stated.

“What that’s going to do ultimately is benefit our students and youth, which is exactly what we want,” said Cara Cool-Trede, executive director. “We want to keep them here in southwest Iowa and get them really good jobs so they can be financially successful here.”

Iowa Western Community College President Dan Kinney called it a “key program.”

“Career EdVantage is another key program that will help students thrive in southwest Iowa,” he said. “The program will work with businesses and educators at the high schools and Iowa Western to create career pathways into the high-skill, high-paying jobs in southwest Iowa. This will not only be important to better educating students but will improve economic development in the area.”

Career EdVantage will follow the program model of Avenue Scholars, which works with metro school districts to provide individualized support services to help students enter financially sustaining career paths, the press release stated.

“This is a marvelous opportunity for our kids and communities,” Stephen Wild, president of the Charles E. Lakin Foundation, said in the press release. “Career EdVantage will provide a quality program model and the necessary resources to help disadvantaged students create their own path to success. It is a fitting tribute to Charles and his wife, Florence, who found success through struggles, hard work and education.”

Students will go through an application process to be selected for the program and enter as high school juniors or seniors, Cool-Trede said. Once accepted, students can stay in the program as they finish high school, go through a community college or training program and start their careers. After high school, they will work with industry coaches.

“The support carries on into the beginning of their actual employment,” she said.

When fully implemented in 2022, Career EdVantage expects to provide mentorship, coaching and support services to about 400 students – 200 high school and 200 post-secondary. The organization will partner with Iowa Western and Future Ready Iowa.

“This program, coupled with Pottawattamie Promise and the Future Ready initiative, will help to improve the quality of life in southwest Iowa,” Kinney said.

The goal is to grow the southwest Iowa workforce, Cool-Trede said. The program aims to eventually add 100 job-ready individuals to the area workforce each year.

This school year, the program will serve a total of 25 students from Avoca-Hancock-Shelby-Tennant-Walnut, Riverside, Shenandoah and Tri-Center Community School Districts, Cool-Trede said. Career coaches will be embedded at all of the participating schools and will be available to talk to students on a daily basis, she said.

It will take a couple months to get everything up and running, Cool-Trede said.

“I would like to get this out there as soon as possible, but we have to be very intentional about the way we start the program,” she said.

Council Bluffs and Lewis Central Community Schools will join the program during the next two years.

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