Winona Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation $7,500 Grant
”Winona County income is about 35% less than the rest of Minnesota, and local employers struggle to find skilled employees.”
In April of 2021, the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation received a $7,500 grant from the Winona Community Foundation’s community grant program. This grant supported their REACH program. This program was designed to prepare local high school students for careers at local employers, bridging the gap between school curriculum and workforce needs.
REACH addresses the lack of high school career/technical programs and pathways to the workplace and/or post-secondary education. These offerings have been reduced due to attrition, budget cuts, and finding available licensed instructors. This program is unique in that it is employer-led, in conjunction with programming being collaborative developed with all the partners.
The REACH program consists of:
- Skills classes earning dual, concurrent or articulated credit through MN State College Southeast.
- A business communication class including professional soft skills needed today.
- Additional required training such as OSHA or HIPAA.
- Summer internships or skills certification (such as Certified Nursing Assistant or welding).
- Immersion/job-shadowing experiences with employers.
This grant allowed the Foundation to work with 95 students at Winona Senior High School (in two career tracks – Manufacturing, and Health and Human Services). The students took classes specific to their intended career fields, in addition to learning soft skills and having one-on-one or group interactions with professionals in the community.
The activities included in the REACH program:
- REAL COLORS strengths assessments, learning how to capitalize on unique strengths and personality traits.
- Meeting with area professionals in the same category of REAL COLORS, to discuss real-world applications of the strengths and traits.
- Individual e-mail etiquette coaching and evaluation.
- Students composed resume draft, then submitted them to local HR professionals, who gave them individualized feedback.
- Students received health and human services training (including HIPAA) from local employers.
- Presentation by a Career Services professional from Winona State University.
- Mock interviews with local HR professionals.
- Presentation on teamwork by Express Personnel.
- Presentation by Chamber CEO on the realities of life after high school, preparing students for various aspects of transition.
- Presentation by HR executive from Benedictine Living Community (St. Anne/Callista Court) on specific paths within health industry.
- CareerForce (formerly Workforce Center) executive spoke on programs for financial support and reimbursement.
- Presentation by Fastenal executive on specific paths within manufacturing industry.
In the spring, students will begin receiving individualized opportunities based on their areas of interest. A session is being planned for students to pick a career field; they will then receive a “budget” for that field and the amount of post-secondary education required. They will visit different booths/stations to determine the cost of various living expenses, then will determine what they can/cannot afford depending on their particular career choices.
“We will be adding schools to the program, allowing more students to have access to the programming, giving them access to have the knowledge and skills they need to obtain well-paying jobs in the community.”
An important part of the Winona Community Foundation’s mission is realized though awarding community grants to meet the ever-changing needs of the community through a competitive process. By doing so, a variety of interests are supported with the goal of helping local charities make a difference in the Winona area. Our community grants for nonprofits are broad and inclusive to meet the current community needs in the Winona area.