New MEDCO program to connect, keep Marion students in local jobs upon graduation

Community Promise designed create local skilled workers

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MARION — The Marion Economic Development Corp. has designed a new program it believes will cultivate skilled young professionals by connecting them with future job opportunities in the Corridor while they’re still students in Marion’s middle and high school.

The program also could pay for part of student’s higher education.

Nick Glew, president of MEDCO, announced the program called Community Promise at MEDCO’s annual lunch Wednesday. Glew said he expects the program — designed by MEDCO, Kirkwood Community College and Marion Independent and Linn-Mar school districts — to kickoff this fall.

Community Promise is exclusive to students in the Marion and Linn-Mar districts.

Existing programs provide high school students with hands-on learning experiences by partnering with area companies on projects, Glew said. But Community Promise will ask businesses to partner with a student as early as middle school to pursue job opportunities the company expects need filling in about two years.

“We want to build an environment that builds community loyalty and becomes contagious in talent recruitment,” he said. “We want to be a national leader in this model in creating an insulated talent pipeline. We want to invest in our people here so they stay here and are long-term productive citizens.”

Glew said students involved in Community Promise still can be involved in other programs, such as Iowa BIG.

“The more intentional part is layering on top of these companies that say, ‘We’ve got this in a couple years. Let’s connect with you and see if you’re the solution to that need,’” Glew said.

MEDCO will build a database of job profiles for which companies expect to need skilled workers. The profiles include job descriptions, salary and benefit information, as well as necessary high school and college courses.

Glew said MEDCO already has more than 15 area companies interested in the program and that have filled out job profiles.

Here’s how the steps of the program work:

l Exposure — Putting guest speakers, career fairs and regular job opening information in front of middle school students and their parents

l Experience — Connecting freshman and sophomores in high school with job shadows, field trips and guest speakers

l Pursuit — Sophomores and juniors can apply, interview and be selected to train for and potentially fill a job profile at a local company after high school graduation. If selected for the job, the schools and Kirkwood work with the student to create an academic plan.

l Investment — The business will start a high school senior in an apprenticeship program or ask them to enroll in college coursework. If students will be continuing their education, they will enter into a contract with the company in which the company agrees to pay for a portion of the students’ education. Students also will have help from “pursuit grants,” or funds from MEDCO and local businesses who have donated money.

l Community Promise — Students who complete the requirements will be given first chance to interview for positions at the company with which they partnered.

At Wednesday’s lunch, MEDCO committed a $50,000 grant to start the program. Glew said he is hoping to raise a total of $250,000 in the next five years to sponsor the pursuit grants.

“The program is taking people already here and already in our community so we can see that talent pipeline being developed right here,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 368-8516; makayla.tendall@thegazette.com

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