Inspire helps students, businesses find each other

Software shows students what’s required for careers
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PHOTO BY MIRIAM NELSON Speaking to a group of seven business respresentatives, Lynn Aprill explained the concept of the Inspire program, which was designed to complement the Career Cruising application mandated by the state for career planning for students sixth grade through 12. Aprill is the director of the Center on Education for Economic Development at CESA 8. The event was open to the public and held May 11 at the NTC Wittenberg Campus.

The Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce hosted an information session May 11 at Northcentral Technical College – Wittenberg Campus to help local businesses and organizations learn more about the Inspire software program designed to help schools meet their academic and career planning (ACP) requirement.

“Workforce development is a huge priority for the Shawano Country Chamber,” said chamber director Nancy Smith, who also serves on the board for Education for Economic Development. “The better informed students can be before leaving school can increase their ability to be more productive workers.”

Two years ago, the state of Wisconsin mandated that schools provide academic and career planning in order to better prepare students for their entry into the workforce.

Career Cruising is a software program designed to help teachers reach those goals, but it is only funded through the state for two years. The state requires teachers to plan to spend a certain amount of hours per month on ACP. The amount of time is determined by grade level and school district size.

With Career Cruising, jobs are categorized into 16 clusters, which align with national clusters. It gives a general idea of what kinds of jobs are available. It’s also a tool for assessing skills and interest by utilizing interest inventory tests.

If a student is interested in accounting, they would be able to determine how much and what kind of schooling is needed, where those schools are located, and what is the salary potential.

Inspire is an extension of the Career Cruising concept. It helps the teachers to create lesson plans because there are more options. It also allows for greater interaction between students and businesses.

There are three different levels for business participation. The first level is to just post a company profile letting teachers and students know who they are and what jobs are connected with the business. The second level allows for online career coaching by someone in the company who can answer questions about their career and the company. The third level make it possible for students to learn by doing, working with the company and job shadowing to learn firsthand what it’s like to work at the company.

“If you build it, they will come, is the theory we are working with,” said Lynn Aprill, director of the Center on Education for Economic Development.

Ideally, Inspire will be funded by school districts and businesses. About half the businesses aligned with Inspire have made a donation to help fund the program. It is set up as a 501(c)(3) so that their investment is also tax-deductible.

“By investing in this program, businesses have access to a better informed and better equipped workforce,” Aprill said.

Currently, Inspire is approaching school districts according to CESA territories. The Wittenberg-Birnamwood School District is part of CESA 8, but Inspire includes the independent counties of Sheboygan and Door County as part of its marketing strategy.

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: Inspire seminar

WHEN: 7:45 a.m. Thursday

WHERE: Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce, 1263 S. Main St., Shawano

REGISTRATION: Nancy Smith, 715-524-2139