Area career centers play an important role in secondary schools in Missouri as they offer specialized training in career technical education. These programs are typically designed for juniors and seniors in high school who are looking to bolster their skills before entering the workforce or post-secondary education in a specific career field. Students are eligible to earn industry recognized certifications from these programs which gives them a competitive edge when entering the workforce or post-secondary education. Demand for these programs has never been higher. Herndon Career Center has seen over an eighty percent increase in enrollment over the last four years and still sees higher demand for workforce than we are able to meet locally. 

So how do we help connect students to industry experiences to discover their workforce potential and goals? Herndon Career Center and other area career centers partner with industry to enhance learning experiences for students engaged in career technical education programs. These industry partnerships can include guest lectures, job demonstrations, site visits, job shadowing and internships. The goal for any of these experiences is to enhance student learning outcomes while also preparing them to enter the workforce. Integrating work based learning experiences is an essential part of what career centers have always done, and is an increasing trend throughout K-12 education. As educators, fostering these relationships can be challenging. Most business partnerships are fostered through personal connections, industry networking activities, referrals from other partnerships, or cold calling potential partners. This is a challenging strain on time for teachers, school counselors, administrators and other school personnel based on other duties throughout the day. However, this goal has become an increasing priority for most schools and districts throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area. 

While Herndon Career Center has fostered and developed a lot of internal business relationships and internships, we can’t feasibly create every opportunity for every student. Herndon Career Center partners with organizations like the National Institute of Construction Excellence (NICE) to help bridge some of this gap. Partnering with NICE has allowed seniors to engage with over twenty industry partners a year in the construction industry in meaningful conversations and site visits about how to transition their extensive training hours into a career in their company. These Senior Days are the most utilized program by Herndon Career Center but other programs like the iBuild Showcase provide students with an extensive workforce exposition to explore the construction industry. iBuild Showcase is open for both middle school and high school students and is a great exploratory activity for underclassmen to develop their individual career and academic plan.  

From an industry standpoint, how is your company engaging education in meaningful career exploration and education? Who in your company is responsible for educational outreach and has the ability to create and foster meaningful relationships with career centers or comprehensive schools? Is it better for your company to partner with educational non-profits to bring these experiences into schools? What barriers exist that are preventing these activities from happening? 

These challenges exist for both education and industry, and both groups are grasping to find solutions to these challenging questions. Educators and industry know that working collaboratively improves student learning outcomes and improves workplace readiness and employment outcomes for students. The challenge is building connections and making inroads with one another to eliminate these barriers, and ensuring that partnerships are developed that are institutional and outlast individual employment.


Nate Zier

School Counselor, Herndon Career Center

Board Member, National Institute of Construction Excellence