Students trying to figure out their career pathway may discover their passions at the Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative’s Building Our Shared Futures expo on Friday.
The purpose of the expo is show the community the different career pathways the organization has developed over the course of the year and share news about a new platform for managing experiential learning opportunities for students in the region.
The event will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fort Lewis College Student Union. About 250 people are estimated to attend. It will be open to students of all ages.
Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative was developed in 2019 to aid school districts in Southwest Colorado which had limited resources compared to Front Range districts.
The organization’s goal is to develop college and career pathways that meet the needs of employers in Southwest Colorado. Two years ago, the collaboration received a $3.6 million Rural Innovation Stronger Economy grant to invest in these resources.
It covers school districts in Bayfield, Durango, Pagosa Springs, Ignacio and Cortez.
The event will welcome industry leaders from outdoor recreation, building trades, agriculture, health sciences and hospitality tourism fields. These are based on the career pathways that the organization has helped develop.
“We went through an extensive list of different points of criteria to determine what pathways would be chosen, and there's a couple of different points,” said Executive Director Jessica Morrison.
The event will start with an industry leader breakfast at 8 a.m. where funding and academic resources will be discussed including professional internship and shadowing opportunities.
At 9 a.m. the full event will start where students will break off into different rooms depending on the career pathway of their interest. This may involve showing students the different equipment they may use if pursuing a job in building trades or agriculture. These breakout rooms will also show students what course sequences they’ll have to go through to enter their field of interest.
Morrison said school districts having the ability to develop pathways based on community needs will help them develop a community workforce.
As part of the event, there will also be a video from Gov. Jared Polis speaking about the career pathway programs. There will also be an update about the organization’s work-based data platform that intends to connect all students to industry for career learning activities.
“The reason why that's so important is because a student in Silverton may not have access to a work based learning coordinator at their school,” Morrison said.
The platform is supposed to go into effect this fall.
A 2019 survey of internship programs by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 70% of interns received a job offer.
Morrison said rural school districts often do not receive the type of career pathways resources that those on the Front Range receive. She added that there are districts without a single career in technical education pathways.
Part of this process also involves putting students through concurrent enrollment, which means they are earning both college and high school credit while taking the class. It also may include earning certain industry certifications or other credentials depending on the field.
Resources can also mean equipment for CTE courses.
“We at the collaborative purchase industry-grade equipment and train teachers on that equipment and then they share what they’ve learned,” Morrison said.
But having access to that equipment comes at a cost and sometimes it can be around $75,000 or more, which makes it difficult for smaller districts to purchase.
“No one school district is able to afford that and access it,” Morrison said. “But because we purchased it, we bring them collectively together and they can learn how to utilize that equipment.”