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Career planning for students must start sooner rather than later

Students don’t have to fail in school or in life because they don’t have a plan.

Making sure each one has a plan for his or her future -- as early as possible but at least by the ninth grade -- was the topic of a lively Eggs and Issues program of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce Saturday morning at the Rochester Golf and Country Club.

House File No. 2705 would require school districts to "assist all students by no later than grade 9 to explore their college and career interests and aspirations and to develop a plan for a smooth and successful transition to post secondary education or employment."

The law would require "high academic standards and 21st century skills such as team work, collaboration and good work habits."

Challenges ahead


The bill won enthusiastic praise from lawmakers, teachers and businessmen and women at the meeting, but many, including state Rep. Sandra Peterson pointed to a formidable roadblock. Peterson, who has worked the hardest to put this proposal in motion, briefed the group on the bill’s development.

"It will cost money to implement this throughout the state," she said. An appropriation of $1,980,000 from the general fund to the commissioner of education would be made this year and $1,470,000 next year. "It’s money that we don’t have this year," she admitted.

In her briefing, Peterson offered an example that hit home to many of her listeners. She recalled asking a high school graduate if he had a plan for his future. "No," he said, "I’m just going to take some courses and see what I like." During four years of college, he changed his major field twice and at his classmates’ graduation, he was in the audience. It took him another full year to graduate.

"That is a very expensive way to start on a career," she said. "Today the requirements of the workforce and a college education go together; they require the same set of skills.

"This bill might make it easier for students to be successful and more enthusiastic about their future," she said, but she concluded that the program might have to be introduced incrementally.

"This is such a great idea that it will probably never happen," Joe Weis of Weis Construction quipped. But he also offered a suggestion: "Look for grant funding," he said. "The Minnesota Business Partnership might write a check to get this program off the ground."

Starting in high school

If students worked from a plan starting in the ninth grade, the costs of remediation in college (catching up on basics) could be cut in half, it was pointed out. But it’s not just college.


Steve Huesman, a social studies teacher at Mayo High School, said that lack of planning causes many students to miss the connection between their classes and a job.

"So the ninth grade has now become a place of remediation to bring them up to grade level. "With four hours of a seven-hour day taken up with that, where are the options?" he asked.

"That’s why it’s so important to keep them at grade level in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades," said Sen. Ann Lynch, DFL-Rochester. "A lot of things will fall into place if our students read at grade level without having to catch up."

Rep. Randy Demmer, R-Hayfield, warned that the bill stirred some questions in the legislature that go beyond financing. "The issue here is control. Do we allow school districts to make decisions about how to use this money or not?"

Mo Anderson, a member of the Governor’s Workforce Development Council, said that while the measure has been introduced to the state legislature, it has not yet gone to the finance committee.

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