Pratt community business leaders met last week, hoping to "Build Bridges" between job opportunities and young people looking for work in the area.
Getting Pratt area students to come back to Pratt after college is an ongoing problem, but it is one city leaders and business people are working together to solve. Under the banner of the name “Building Bridges,” members of Workforce One, Pratt USD 382 administration, Skyline USD 438 administration and representatives from various businesses in the community met April 17 at Pratt Community College to review available business opportunities and to discern opportunities for students.
Tucky Allen, Workforce One local area business services director for the One-Stop Committee, said a challenge was how students could be trained for local jobs and then how to get them to stay here.
He said another challenge was reaching the unemployed and unskilled and students out of school and helping them find the jobs and training they need.
“Our youth are our future,” Allen said. “It’s vital to find these people and help them find work locally to keep the area growing.”
Job shadowing helps students understand what it takes to do a job and is an effective tool that many businesses use in Pratt. Touring facilities, internships and mock interviews are also effective tools.
Businesses in Pratt have many job opportunities but many students don’t know all the options available to them.
There are essential and technical skills necessary to get jobs and it is necessary that students get training in both areas, Allen said.
Herb McPherson, Skyline high school principal, shared a variety of ways the district is helping students prepare for a career. They offer Career and Technical Education courses and activities, community service projects, internships, job shadowing, real-world experiences at local businesses that can broaden career awareness and develop job skills, guest speakers, field trips, partnerships with post high school institutions, personalized experiences in middle and high school centered around goals and passions, moving from one-size fits all master schedule to provide a wider variety of opportunities and other opportunities.
Skyline Superintendent Becca Flowers said it is much better for students to get real-world experience. The district has more flexibility to give credit for class content rather than the title of the class and that helps too.
One element that needs to be addressed early before students head into the work force is developing social and emotional skills necessary to be successful, Flowers said.
Steve Blankenship, USD 382 High School Principal said the need for teachers is a example of what is happening in the job market. He said they were lucky if they got two qualified applicants for a job.
“We need students to get back into teaching,” Blankenship said.
One new project for students at PHS is building a Frog Shop on wheels. This will give students an opportunity to build something and use math skills.
Chris Battin, PHS college and career counselor, said education has to get creative with class choices.
The district has a good relationship with Pratt Regional Medical Center, they have tech courses that lead to necessary certification. They didn’t have an agriculture program but developed one in combination with Pratt Community College agronomy and animal science classes. The high school’s graphic design class gives good real-world experience.
The district has had over 70 business members come to school to give informative talks, Battin said.
The district also has eight students participate in real-world job shadowing and internships offered by local businesses.
Blankenship said the district wants to students to take ownership of job shadowing or internships. If the district doesn’t have a specific pathway for students, they will put one together.
Mark Morgan of Morgan Diesel said it was hard to find mechanics. Out of 10 that start in the business, only one ever reaches his age. The industry is running out of people who can fix trucks.
Chase Galle, co-owner of J.A. Knight and Sons Construction, is in his late 20s and he said there were only two people in his company who are under the age of 50 and he is one of them.
Several businesses shared job openings at their businesses and some of the programs they have available including mentoring and job shadowing.