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New career center seeks interest in PdC

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By Steve Van Kooten

 

The questions are simple, meant to carve out demographic data about the Prairie du Chien and surrounding communities. Do you have children? Do the children in your household require childcare? What type of jobs are your children/dependents interested in? The survey is short, maybe a dozen questions. 

It’s just a few minutes; 10 if you really take your time. For most people, it would be a few clicks on the computer, and then it would be done. Barely noticed in a day full of tasks to be done or in the coveted evening lull once the kids are in bed.

But for Carol Roth, Executive Director for Driftless Development, the data is invaluable.

“In my job I talk to a lot of businesses—from big businesses to little businesses—and the issue seems to be we don’t have a big enough workforce,” Roth said. “There simply aren’t enough people.”

Class sizes have gotten smaller and students have passed on college in unprecedented numbers. Roth saw a problem and approached the Prairie du Chien school district with an idea: to construct a Career and Technical Education Center (CTE-C) to serve the local community.

The center, which Roth stated has a soft start date in the Fall of 2024, has entered a planning phase with future district realignment and a feasibility study are projected in the next year. Before that, Roth has sent out a survey with a request for members of the community to participate. “We’re just trying to find out where the interest is and who has the interest.”

If the CTE-C goes forward, the program will offer high school students from Prairie du Chien and the surrounding area opportunities to embark on training that can supplement their school career and better prepare them for their chosen path, whether it’s a four year degree or access to the workforce. Programs could expand to training for disabled individuals for job training and professionals to “up-skill” with certifications, re-certs and specialized training. Everything from targeted job training to soft-skills that businesses claim the current workforce has lacked.

“It’s going to start small,” Roth said. “It’s planting the seed to get people to think about their education in a different way.”

The CTE-C would have staff and resources for students to “jump start” their future and options for lucrative jobs with local employers, who can help train new workers. It would be a chance for the community to invest in it’s most valuable resource: the people.

According to Roth, families in the Prairie area want to see their children work in the local area when they grow up. “We want our kids to be able to work here and have good paying jobs so they can support themselves or a family.”

The center’s website listed many goals for the programs to obtain, including to attract and retain a highly-skilled workforce, prepare people for high-growth careers with local employers and create a “regional business incubator” to support small business development.

“We want to grow this workforce, then everybody wins. They win, the industries win, we grow our communities. It’s just a win-win for everybody.”

Right now, the plan is still a puppy with big paws. What Roth, the school district and the CTE-C need now is information to help guide the project going forward. https://sites.google.com/pdc.k12.wi.us/driftlessareactec/home for further information and https://www.pdc.k12.wi.us/district/cte-center.cfm to take the survey.

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