Students Pilot New Extended Career Experiences

Students Pilot New Extended Career Experiences
Posted on 11/28/2017
Business ECE Student

Graduation is on the horizon for the Class of 2018, and for two SHS seniors, that milestone will be achieved sooner than their peers.  Nate Fisher and Carly Bergstadt both plan to graduate and cross the proverbial graduation stage after first semester.  As they wrap up their high school career, completing their final course requirements, Nate and Carly are getting valuable life-experience by piloting two Extended Career Experiences (ECEs), Agriculture and Business, respectively.  “ECEs provide real world, on the job training for our students.  It helps them to better understand their path and goal following high school,” explained Liz Kluver, Spencer Community Schools Career Coordinator.  Through this experience, recent graduates have also gained actual employment at businesses they visited while enrolled in the ECE.

Piloting the Agriculture and Business ECEs this semester, through the help of Nate and Carly, Kluver has gained valuable information and developed partnerships that will be utilized as the areas are unrolled for other students.  “We have the goal to add two new ECE's each year to accommodate the needs of our area and employers, as well as students’ interests,” explained Kluver.  “Education has been officially added to this year’s ECE lineup, driven by the number of students interested in pursuing education, and Agriculture is an industry in which our businesses have said they want to encourage students to enter as well as educate about the world of agriculture,” said Kluver.  While Agriculture and Education will be the two new ECE’s implemented during second semester, bringing the total to nine, the plan is to add Business and Information Technology (IT) next year.

For Nate, completing the Ag ECE seemed like a great fit.  Spending time on the family farm from a very young age, agriculture could truly be considered Nate’s calling in life.  Passionate about tinkering and working on machinery, Nate attributes his love for the farm to his grandfather, Richard Harves.  Throughout the semester, Nate has had many experiences aligning with the various aspects of agriculture.  The Clay County Fair was Nate’s first adventure, bringing the opportunity to explore and discuss a variety of areas with ag experts.  Next came harvest, during which Nate worked alongside his grandpa and other relatives at his family’s farm, followed by several weeks of tinkering on all things John Deere at The Motor Works.  Following graduation, Nate has hopes of attending Iowa Lakes Community College to pursue a degree in Diesel Mechanics.  From there, the sky is the limit, as this skillset is in demand, and his dream job would be as an agronomist, with the hope of ultimately taking over operations of his family farm eventually.  When asked about the experience, Nate said, “I get to do what I love, so it has worked out great for me!”

Carly has worked from the time she was 14 at Fareway, and while she pondered working through the Fareway management program, she has reconsidered and is looking toward the world of business.  With a broad scope, Carly isn’t 100% sure where she plans to plug in, but has enjoyed learning more about various opportunities through the Business ECE pilot. Starting at Farmers Bank, Carly really enjoyed the experience, saying, “I think it is because my mom worked in a bank when I was a kid so it was really familiar to me.”  At Farmers, Carly experienced many aspects of the banking industry, from reception to loans and human resources to marketing.  She then spent several weeks at Community Insurance which was a completely different experience.  “I learned a lot of stuff, and even though insurance isn’t something I want to get into, it taught me a lot, which will be helpful for me in the future, even when I go to buy insurance,” Carly added.  Following her experience at Community Insurance, she rounded out her ECE at Vander Haag’s.  After graduation, Carly plans to head to Northwest Community College in Sheldon.  Upon receipt of her two-year degree, she will transfer to a four-year college, considering SDSU and UNI since they both have good business programs.  When asked if the experience was beneficial, Carly said, “Oh yes!  I was thinking of pursuing something completely different than business, but after a few critical conversations, I began to look into other options with Mrs. Kluver.”  She added that getting a taste for so many different areas without having to actually apply for a job and realizing it isn’t the right fit, has helped Carly to decide what to pursue post-secondary, which will save her money.  With business being so broad, Carly is planning to keep her options open, hoping to narrow the scope as she completes her college courses. 

Both students enjoyed their experiences and were thankful to be on the ground floor of each new ECE to help future students have the best experience possible. As more and more students participate in the ECEs offered through Spencer High School, the benefits are growing.  Meeting students where they are, interest-wise, keeps them engaged in school while providing real world experience, and many believe this is adding to an increasing graduation rate, rising above that of the state average, and continuing to improve annually.

Not only are these programs impacting SHS students, they are also a model across the state.  “So far, we have had three other schools visit our program, and more are planning to visit in the spring,” shared Kluver.  Principal Elli Wiemers and Kluver have also spoken at numerous events throughout the state, most recently speaking at the Rock the Future Workforce Employer Educator Summit, hosted by North Central Iowa Economic Development.  The two shared about the school and business partnerships, and thinking outside of the box to create opportunities in Spencer and the surrounding regions for students of all abilities and all areas of interest.   With nine ECEs, including Agriculture, Automotive, Construction, Education, Entrepreneurship, Health Sciences, Hospitality, Manufacturing, Music/Theatre, and more added annually, the value beyond school will grow immensely, benefitting both students and employers.