Sisolak urges businesses to invest in work-based learning for area students

RENO, Nev. — Businesses that are willing to invest in opportunities for work-based learning for students remain in high demand and are crucial to a thriving local and global economy.

That was the key message local and state officials spread at Thursday's Business of Education Luncheon held at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno.

The event, hosted by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada and the Washoe K-12 Education Foundation, featured a keynote speech from Gov. Steve Sisolak and a brief address from state superintendent Jhone Ebert, speaking on the theme of “Hiring a Workforce.”

Student outcome improvements are on the horizon in Nevada, Ebert said, but programs such as LifeWorks — an initiative supported by JP Morgan Chase's New Skills for Youth grant — and legislation such as Assembly Bill 7, which was approved in 2017 to establish the Career and College Ready High School Diploma, are building more opportunities for young adults.

Preparing students now for jobs or careers not yet available is a necessary first step to building a flourishing economy, Ebert and Sisolak said, adding tht researchers have expressed children in elementary school now will enter work that does not yet exist.

Work-based learning programs, Sisolak said — in which companies offer levels of concrete work experience that school districts cannot — can engage students through a number of opportunities for career and technical education or internships.

“Students need authentic engagement,” the governor said.

In the past year, Nevada's school districts have reported 3,958 high school students have enrolled in a form of work-based learning, which has resulted in 641 of those earning secondary course credit.

Businesses that can offer industry tours, career fairs, clinical rotations, registered apprenticeships and other opportunities to give students a chance to explore potential career skills produce invaluable short-term and long-term results, Sisolak said.

“Nothing is more important to me than education,” he said. “It is our future.”

Carson High School principal Tasha Fuson attended the Thursday luncheon. She said she is glad education remains a top priority for Sisolak, particularly as this year's legislative session draws to a close.

“Overall, it's good to know he's pushing for us,” she said. “We don't know what the final outcome will be … but obviously we still need to fund education better in the state of Nevada.”

Bob Hastings, a Work Based Learning administrator with Carson City-based JOIN Inc., which provides career training, said he attended the luncheon to support the Washoe County School District's efforts in connecting students with businesses and the opportunities and job skills they could gain.

Hastings, also a Lyon County commissioner and a supporter of his area's schools, said the growth in his county is reflected in the local sites, including Silver Stage High School, thanks to the completion of the USA Parkway.

“We're trying to expand on these programs and get these kids on a career program,” he said. “There's always a lot of work to do.”

Fuson added that with the potential of programs such as Career and Technical Education, applying what businesses can do to the students' interests will benefit them greatly even if they choose not to enter that specific career later.

“With Career and Technical Education, it's not so much about specific training within their programs; it's about skills, that they get to learn new skills, hands-on learning and project-based learning,” Fuson said. “… And then they say, ‘Even if it's not the career I choose, the skills I learn within this career, I'm going to be able to transfer into any other career I have now.' … It's huge and it's exciting.”


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