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Youth jobs initiative expands in region

Special to the Independent

MARSHALL — A new jobs training project in the Marshall area aims to connect young workers, schools and local employers.

Renae Jenniges was hired this spring for a newly created position as Work and Learn coordinator in the Marshall, Tracy and Minneota school districts. She specializes in connecting teenagers with employers who can offer career opportunities.

She said her program aims to give young people a variety of ways to explore careers. They can take part in job shadowing experiences, business tours and apprenticeships.

“We want to demonstrate that there are good jobs in local communities, and that many of them don’t require a four-year degree,” Jenniges said. “It’s a first step toward choosing a career. They can get a good sense of direction.”

The grant-supported Work and Learn position is sponsored by the Minnesota Workforce Center. Jenniges has experience working with the same outreach effort for schools in the Montevideo area.

Her office is located in the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce building on West College Drive, which provides direct connections to employers who can benefit from outreach to teenagers.

A main objective is to facilitate career goal setting at a younger age. Ideally is should occur before a student makes a sizable investment in a post-secondary education program.

“Sometimes a student spends a lot of time and money for a four-year degree, but then decides on a different direction,” Jenniges said.

“That’s what we want to avoid. If they invest in a degree program or training, it should be something they’ll use.”

She said her work involves forming connections with both schools and employers. Often she meets students who are eager to gain practical work experience.

“Some of them want to work full time as soon as possible,” she said. “Their school performance often improves when they see school as part of the pathway toward a career opportunity.”

Marshall Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brad Gruhot said the Work and Learn initiative should help to address a void in the process of finding workers to fill local job openings.

“There’s a need for it,” Gruhot said. “It helps to have someone who can serve as a bridge between schools and employers. It’s good when students hear about how we have well-paying jobs available locally.”

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