Governor Reynolds to recognize high school pathways into medical careers, leading up to National Apprenticeship Week in November

Pella, Iowa – The Career Academy of Pella is hosting Governor Kim Reynolds for a public event to launch a high school registered apprenticeship in patient care, November 9 at 11:15 a.m. The event will include comments by the first apprentice registered in the program, employers hiring apprentices into these high-demand careers and the Governor.

“It takes creative solutions to address today’s workforce shortage, and careers in patient care are some of the most challenging to fill today,” said Teri Vos, director of work-based learning for WorkSMART Connector.  “This high school registered apprenticeship provides a unique pathway into a variety of local, high-demand medical careers, with the support of a mentor, while breaking down barriers to a nursing degree.”

Also to be showcased at the event is a first-of-its-kind virtual reality medical simulator to help train future Certified Nursing Assistants and others.  The patient care apprenticeship is one of several pathways offered through WorkSMART Connector, a collaboration of educators and employers based in Marion County, Iowa.  This particular apprenticeship model prepares students for medical careers beginning in high school.  Apprenticeship certification can be achieved in less than one year after high school graduation as participants earn while they learn, with options to pursue a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree within three years post-high school, or pursue both BSN and Bachelor’s of Arts (BA) degrees in four.  Qualifying apprentices also gain automatic and quick entry into these local nursing programs.

The public event on November 9 will be held at the Career Academy of Pella, 410 East 8th Street in Pella.   For high school students and their parents to learn more about WorkSMART Connector career pathways into construction trades, early childhood education, engineering assistant, hospitality, information technology, patient care and welding, work-based learning informational events will be hosted on November 18, 6:30 p.m. at Pella Community High School, and November 17, 6:30 p.m. at Weiler in Knoxville.

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WorkSMART Connector brings students and employers together through career awareness, career exploration, work-based experience and personal growth.  The local collaboration between area K-12 schools, employers, Central College and regional colleges, focuses on Marion County and surrounding counties.  WorkSMART Connector guides students through their career decision-making process, while providing employment preparation and college credit for participants’ work-based learning, including apprenticeship and certification.  The program is recognized as an Iowa STEM BEST model; visit for more information and a list of partner organizations.

Nine School Districts Awarded Mini-Grant to Develop Work-Based Learning Plans

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Cedar Falls, Iowa (Oct. 25, 2021) – Today, the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council announced nine recipients of the K-12 Work-Based Learning Planning Mini-Grant. The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, Iowa Department of Education and Iowa Business Council collaborated on the Request for Proposals to school-business partnerships involved in the STEM BEST (Business Engaging Students and Teachers) Program. Recipients will receive $5,500 to design relevant, engaging K-12 work-based learning plans or improve upon existing plans, that could serve as models for other schools across the state.

Work-based learning has proven to be an effective tool for educators to connect what is taught in the classroom to what is needed to thrive as employees and citizens. It helps to develop technical skills and employability skills, such as problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking and punctuality.

“By connecting students to Iowa businesses through authentic learning experiences, we’re able to better equip our youth to enter the workforce and enrich our local communities,” said Gov. Reynolds. “We have a great need for skilled workers and this is a critical component to meeting the demand for the future.”

The grants were awarded based on districts’ plans to develop innovative solutions to connect classrooms to future careers; cohesive efforts to reach all grade levels and diverse students; involvement with businesses and other community partners; and professional development provided to educators and partners.

The 2021 Work-Based Learning Planning Mini-Grant awardees are:

  • Ankeny Community School District from the South Central STEM Region
  • Bondurant Farrar Community School District from the South Central STEM Region
  • Boone Community School District from the North Central STEM Region
  • Clear Lake Middle School from the North Central STEM Region
  • Northeast Community School District from the Southeast STEM Region
  • Pella Community School District from the South Central STEM Region
  • Spencer High School from the Northwest STEM Region
  • Waterloo Community School District from the Northeast STEM Region
  • Woodbine Community School District from the Southwest STEM Region

Outstanding work-based learning plans will be posted in June 2022 on the Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning website and distributed through the STEM Council for other schools to utilize as they develop or enhance their own plans.

About the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council: Established in July 2011 via Governor’s Executive Order, the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council is a public-private partnership of educators, companies and Iowa students and families addressing policies and programs designed to improve Iowa’s educational system focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The STEM Council works to engage and prepare students for a career-ready workforce path, regain our state’s historic leadership position in education and provide a vital competitive economic advantage now, and for the future, to ensure that every Iowa student has access to world-class STEM education opportunities. The 62-member STEM Council is co-chaired by Governor Kim Reynolds and Foundation Analytical Laboratory Owner and Director of Technical Services Diane Young. For more information, visit

WorkSMART Connector named a STEM BEST Program model

WorkSMART Connector’s “Career Awareness & Exploration” program has been named a 2021 STEM BEST partner.  Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council selected it as one of 22 statewide recipients focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  The program is a collaboration of Pella and surrounding K-12 schools, Central College, area community colleges, as well as regional employers.

WorkSMART Connector introduces students to area careers by bringing experts in local occupations into the classroom, in-person or virtually.  Educators request these visits, which include interactive activities and information related to local careers.  The STEM BEST award will allow for program expansion, including activities related to engineering and manufacturing, healthcare and hospitality careers, and more.

In addition, the award will allow WorkSMART Connector to bring students from career awareness into career exploration, with additional life skills training.  Area career experts and employer volunteers will meet with student groups based on their areas of interest, to develop career vision and employability skills such as the ability to collaborate, manage time and stress, and to self-advocate.  This experience will launch in Pella, Pella Christian and Knoxville schools this fall, with additional surrounding schools to follow.

“WorkSMART Connector creates a pathway for area students to find their way into fulfilling, local careers with valuable preparation,” said Teri Vos, director of work-based learning.  “The STEM BEST award will help expedite this work, while benefitting our communities and State.”

To be considered for a STEM BEST Program partner, applicants were required to submit a comprehensive proposal that included thorough and relevant STEM curriculum, valuable partnerships with community businesses or organizations, real-world learning opportunities and expertise at the postsecondary education and training level.  Awardees will serve as models to other schools throughout Iowa.

“STEM fields offer the opportunity for a great future. STEM BEST projects allow our Iowa students to experience that firsthand while still in school,” said Jeff Weld, executive director of the STEM Council. “As these public-private partnerships grow, student success and Iowa’s skilled workforce will continue to benefit.”

Local High School Students Complete IT Certification Workshop at Central

PICTURED ABOVE: Elyse Kriegel, William Rasmussen, Central Professor of Computer Science Stephen Fyfe, Grant Alsum and Vaughn Thompson.

Four high school students from the Pella area recently completed a two-week workshop on campus at Central College as they worked toward IT certification. The workshop was part of a new work-based learning program of which Central College is a partner.

Grant Alsum, Elyse Kriegel, William Rasmussen and Vaughn Thompson took the two-week workshop at Central with Stephen Fyfe, professor of computer science, and presented their work and knowledge to area businesses at the end.

The group now has transitioned to a six-week internship at area business. Two are completing internships with Vermeer Corporation, while another is with ICE Technologies in Pella and another with Musco Lighting in Oskaloosa.

The students attend both Pella and Pella Christian high schools and are the first to go through IT Certification with the work-based learning program. All are between their junior and senior years and took prep classes at their high school.

“The goal is to build a pathway from classes in high school to the on-campus workshop to the workplace,” says Teri Vos, director of the work-based learning program. “We want to advance them toward a successful future and local career opportunities in their chosen fields.”

Students receive one college credit for the two-week workshop and another two college credits for the six-week internship. They will present to area business again at the completion of the internships.

The work-based learning program is funded in part by a grant from Future Ready Iowa, with additional guidance and support from Iowa Workforce Development throughout the expansion of work-based learning in the region. It is a collaborative community project whose participants currently include area educational institutions and employers.

Students Sign With Local Employers in Work-Based Learning Program

Career Academy of Pella hosted a virtual signing day on May 20 to welcome participants into a new and expanding work-based educational program in Marion County.

In total, 13 students from high schools in Pella signed letters with the U.S. Department of Labor to participate in apprenticeship programs in welding and engineering or made a commitment to information technology and early education certifications.

Students are paired with area businesses to enjoy paid employment while earning post-secondary credit for the training to apply toward a degree.

“This is a collaboration that is positively changing young lives, now and in the future, providing career pathways to in-demand fields right here in Iowa,” says Teri Vos, director of the work-based learning program. “Thank you to the high school students, employers and all partners creating these valuable experiences.”

The work-based learning program is funded in part by a grant from Future Ready Iowa, with additional guidance and support from Iowa Workforce Development throughout the expansion of work-based learning in the region. It is a collaborative community project whose participants currently include area educational institutions and employers.

The following are in the 2020-21 program:

Welding Apprenticeship
Brendan Van Gorp — Co-Line Manufacturing
Matthew Lunsford — LDJ Manufacturing
Jayden Jansen — Vermeer Corporation
Silas Vanderhoff  — Vermeer Corporation
Colton Downing  — Weiler Inc.
Landen Van Heukelom  — Weiler Inc.

Engineering Assistant Apprenticeship
Noah Seelye — Pella Corp.

IT Certification, ICE Technologies and Vermeer
Grant Alsum
Elyse Kriegel
William Rasmussen
Vaughn Thompson

Early Childhood Education Certification
Sydney Davis — Pella Early Learning Center
Olivia Van Wyk — Pella Early Learning Center