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Dassel Chamber members consider hiring DC students

November 19, 2007

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Two instructors from the work experience program asked business representatives at the Dassel Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday to consider hiring students from the Dassel-Cokato School District.

Virginia Grosser, speaking for the Dassel-Cokato Area Learning Center, and Kelly Kuennen, speaking for the high school traditional work experience program, told how DC students are learning about career options and getting transferable work skills.

Grosser of Cokato, who graduated from DC high school 25 years ago, said she is the work coordinator for both the ALC and special needs work experience for special education students. Generally, grades 10, 11, and 12 are included in the special ed program.

The students work 140 minutes a week, the equivalent of two class sessions, and they get school credit while working at job sites, where goods and services are produced. The students get paid and acquire real workplace experience and work readiness skills, Grosser said.

The employer also benefits by getting better-prepared employees who understand workplace expectations and derive value from students’ work. Even if the student only shreds paper, the work frees a more highly-paid employee to do other work, she said.

The number of hours worked also varies. ALC students do not have to work during the school day. They also have an assignment to complete to get school credit. A job coach is available if necessary. The job coach is provided by the district, not the employer, Grosser said.

Kuennen, a business education teacher, told about the high school’s traditional work program. Students must take a business course before they start the work experience program, she said.

The instructor meets with the students, usually seniors, every three weeks. Students also have an assignment to complete, because they also receive school credit for the work, Kuennen said.

Students in the traditional work experience program will be in school each day they work, be responsible for transportation, be evaluated by the employer and supervisor each school term, and abide by all rules and policies of the school and employer.

The employer and school work together on a training agreement before a student starts work, Kuennen added.

Students work a trimester minimum, which is about 57 school days, for at least four days a week. This trimester, students are employed at Saunatec and Excel Concrete in Cokato, and Hojies Grill & Smokehouse in Dassel, she said.

ALC students are currently working at Cokato Elementary School and Good Shepherd Free Lutheran Church in Cokato. In the past, ALC students worked at Schmidty’s of Dassel and Dassel Lakeside Community Home, Grosser said.

Grosser coordinates work for 20 night and day ALC students and 12 special needs students, she said.

Employers who are interested in hiring students may contact the coordinators by e-mailing to kelly.kuennen@dc.k12.mn.us, or calling (320) 286-4100 ext. 1858, or Grosser at (320) 286-4100 ext. 1202.

In other business, the chamber heard about the “Lead the Way” project from DC High School Principal Dean Jennissen. It is a hands-on math, science, technology and engineering course that starts in middle school and finishes after seven courses in high school.

The DC school district will start the project, in which students learn about robotics, civil engineering and aeronautics, in the fall of 2008, he said.