Career Learning Link Creates Opportunities for High School Students

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When you were in high school, did you already know the best career choice for you based on your interests, abilities and talents? If you did, you may be one of the fortunate ones; most working adults in their 20s have already changed careers at least twice!

The best career path for high school students might be right in their neighborhood, but without the right connections, students may never know about these opportunities. That’s how a new initiative at Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), the Northeast Iowa Career Learning Link, serves as the connecting piece.

The Northeast Iowa Career Learning Link provides students with career exploration activities such as business tours, job shadowing, and internships through two grant-funded programs. These two grants, Youth CareerConnect (YCC) and the Regional Work-Based Intermediary Network, allow Career Learning Link to focus its efforts on building knowledge of career opportunities for our area’s high school students. Each of the programs under the Career Learning Link takes a slightly different approach, yet the objectives are the same – to spark and support young students’ career interests while in high school.

The $2.7 million four-year YCC grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration is a partnership between NICC, 23 regional high schools, business and industry, East Central Intergovernmental Association and Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission, the grant’s fiscal agent and lead workforce partner. This grant encourages high school juniors to study a career pathway in a high demand career area – healthcare, information technology, advanced manufacturing, business/finance, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). In addition to taking college-credit courses in these pathways during their junior and senior years of high school, participating students work with a career coach on long-term education and career planning, take a Pre-employment Strategies college-credit course, go on at least one job shadow experience, attend a parent/student orientation and consider the optional elements of an internship and/or career mentor.

The second program offered through the Northeast Iowa Career Learning Link, the Regional Work-Based Intermediary Network, is legislative funding managed by the Iowa Department of Education. Each of Iowa’s 15 community colleges received a portion of the $1.45 million in grant funding to develop 15 networks for their respective districts.

The main purpose of the intermediary funding is to create a connector for schools and businesses within each community college region in Iowa.

As part of the grant’s mission, The Career Learning Link strives to connect businesses and high schools by offering relevant, work-based learning activities for students and educators. Focus areas specified in the funding include STEM occupations, infrastructure and commercial/residential construction, advanced manufacturing, bioscience and information technology industries; however, students and teachers may request experiences in any career area of interest. Career Learning Link Intermediary Programming include business/industry tours classroom speakers, job shadows and professional development for educators. A student internship program is also under development.

For more information about the Career Learning Link, please contact Gena Gesing at or Julie Anderson at or visit

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