Are students prepared for jobs?

In a town with the moniker "Med City," it sometimes is difficult for students to think about careers beyond the medical field.

With the Rochester area set for a major expansion because of plans like Destination Medical Center and Journey to Growth , local school districts are figuring out how to meet workforce needs while trying to balance changes in education.

On Friday, local superintendents — Rochester's Michael Muñoz, Byron's Jeff Elstad and Kasson-Mantorville's Mark Matuska — gathered to discuss with local education players how to de-stigmatize fields such as technical education and hospitality in preparation for the area's expansion.

The superintendents agreed looking at workforce needs is essential, and to do that, educators need to remove the stigma attached to certain careers such as technical education careers and hospitality.

Muñoz said creating a two-way conversation, so that districts know what skills employers are looking for from graduates, is essential to taking on upcoming changes. The area superintendents agreed they need to do a better job of engaging parents and the community in the education process.


"First of all, what I'd say for our district, we have to do a much better job of telling our story," Muñoz said. "We have a lot of innovative things going on throughout our district and we just don't do a really good job of making our community and parents aware of that."

Another consideration is connecting parents and community members to what is happening in schools. Creating those relationships can expose kids to an array of career pathways at an earlier age, by connecting them to people outside the classroom.

But educators said it is difficult to grapple with budget constraints and changing education needs, which often create choices such as increasing class size in core areas of instruction, such as math, science and reading — the areas students are required to take standardized tests in — or cutting supplementary classes such as art and physical education.

Much of the conversation also centered on balancing student passion and meeting those core standards — superintendents talked about the possibility of integrating these disciplines, rather than separating them.

Matuska pointed to efforts such as STEM education, which is science, technology, engineering and math through art education. He said in Byron, instead of separating disciplines, they are combined and taught in integration with one another.

Muñoz said Rochester's CTECH, or Career and Technical Education Center at Heintz, is an example of an effort to provide career technical training through local partnerships in areas such as construction, agriculture and hospitality. In the future, he said, educators are considering integrating core standards into these classes.

But all of these concerns need to be addressed by getting more people into the education field, said Elstad, pushing educators to start talking about teaching as a "profession" again.

"We can't have education be a fallback career," he said.

What To Read Next
Get Local