Black River Falls School District makes changes to address career readiness

Black River Falls

La Crosse Tribune: In 1983 a book titled “A Nation at Risk” was published about a study that showed U.S. graduates were falling behind the rest of the world, which began the push for education to send more children to college.

After 30 years of changes to the education system, especially under the Bush administration with the No Child Left Behind Act, districts like Black River Falls are building on their tradition of career and technical education curriculum to develop individualized paths for students whether that be career planning or college readiness.

“What happened is that in the education world as well as the political world, that translated into we need to get kids into college, we need to send more kids to college. What we found though is that essentially the numbers stayed about the same as far as kids that actually completed a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. In Black River Falls and in the nation it is about 30 percent, and it has been there for a long time,” Black River Falls High School principal Tom Chambers said.

“For those 30 years since then, we (as a nation) have kind of in many ways neglected that 70 percent of the population,” he said. “A lot of them actually went to four-year colleges, but didn’t complete. So then they are coming back and looking at getting into the workforce, but then they don’t have a credential because they have two years at a four-year college. They didn’t have a completion to show for that.”

In this national culture, companies like Regal, which manufactures small engines in Black River Falls, have taken on the responsibilities of doing most of the employee training.

“I would say it is under 10 percent of our applicants come with some education or prior work experience that would be relevant to those types of positions,” Regal human resources manager Reva Witte said about specialized positions like machinists. “Most of our positions are strictly on-the-job training.We can hire somebody that has had no manufacturing experience and provide all of the necessary training once they are here on the job.

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