The GenZ Connection: Skills and Careers in Manufacturing program – launched the summer of 2017 – was a collaborative partnership between VHEDC, White Bear Lake Area Schools, White Bear Lake Area Educational Foundation, Ramsey County, HIRED and local manufacturing businesses: Du Fresne Manufacturing, Mold Craft, SCHWING America and The Specialty Mfg. Co. These were the original industry partners.
Nearly three years in the making, GenZ Connection began with a significant challenge: ensuring that high school students could gain hands-on manufacturing skills through paid internships. Minnesota Child Labor Laws prohibited individuals under the age of 18 from working on the manufacturing floor with most machines used by the partnering businesses. Meetings and conversations between the school district’s Career Pathways Navigator and the Minnesota Department of Education and Department of Labor and Industry began in May 2015.
The process of reviewing and revising Minnesota’s Child Labor laws – which included comparison to other states’ laws – involved time, monetary investment and effort by many of the aforementioned partners. Eventually, with guarantees that certain requirements would be met the laws were revised so that the GenZ Connection students could work on machines 20 percent of the time they are working, which is the federal maximum.
The first GenZ Connection interns – Aaron Purdham, Charlie Rupprecht, Ryan Benert and Karl Stein – worked a total of 90 hours (each), $10/hour, for four weeks, rotating through each of the four business partners. Ramsey County “employed” the students part-time, and their wages and workers’ compensation were funded by VHEDC – a significant partner of the White Bear Lake Area School District’s Manufacturing Pathway program since it began in 2015.
In May 2018, VHEDC announced the industry partners who will participate in the 2018 GenZ Connection: Skills and Careers in Manufacturing summer internship program. The program is doubling in size to eight businesses. The businesses are: SCHWING America, Mold Craft, Renstrom Dental Studios, Pace Industries, LasX Industries, Superior Machine, The Specialty Mfg Co, and Teamvantage. Each business will host four White Bear Lake High School Manufacturing Pathway students to gain hands-on manufacturing skills through paid internships. These industry partners represent a wide variety of manufacturing processes and are located throughout the Northeast Metro area.
GenZ in the News
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