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.”