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Discussions begin on how to better prepare DC students for the workforce
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Feb. 23, 2015

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

Community discussions began last week on what an ideal career and technical program at Dassel-Cokato Schools would look like.

According to Eric Sawatzke, a teacher in the agriculture department, the first meeting went well and included roughly 40 community members and leaders in the business, manufacturing, and construction industries.

The discussion first began with the group analyzing career skills and training it sees the students need in order to be in a particular career/field.

“The ideas might be very different than what we have,” Sawatzke commented.

The group then took a tour of the facility, including the wood shop, welding room, and the family and consumer science classroom.

There were 28 different themes that came out of the initial discussion, which were then voted in terms of importance.

The top themes that received the highest ratings were business partnerships, career exploration, welding, and schematics/blueprints/measurements.

Discussions will continue at the next meeting, which is set for Monday, March 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the agriculture room. The public is once again welcome to attend.

The group will work to determine a clear proposal, which will be brought to the school board most likely in May or June, according to Dassel-Cokato High School Principal Dean Jennissen, who said the initial meeting met the expectations.

“We really wanted to spend time listening,” Jennissen said.

Paul Halonen of B & P Drywall out of Dassel attended the first meeting and agreed that it went really well.

“The school did a great job getting many different opinions, not just a small group,” Halonen said.

“I think they saw a need and are going to try adapt to fit that need. It’s really forward-thinking on their part, and if they can make it work, it will be beneficial to the students and many local businesses,” Halonen said.

Sawatzke noted that if the teachers and administration decide to add to a program, it may mean eliminating elsewhere. That will also be a part of the upcoming discussions, he said.

“We’re not trying to make the program bigger, but rather, make it what our community sees it should be,” Sawatzke said.

Halonen noted that the construction field is always changing, and the school can add to the existing welding and construction classes.

“Some benefits could be replacing outdated equipment or adding new course material to existing classes,” Halonen recommended.

“I don’t think this is an easy task they are taking on, but as an employer, I couldn’t be more happy to hear about it,” Halonen said. “Most of our employees are DC graduates, and we’d love to keep hiring from this community.”

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