Career and Youth Workforce Development & Needs Program: Creating Connections Between Baldwin City Businesses and USD 348

Where is the source of the future skilled workforce that will fuel the economy?

In many areas of the country, employers are already struggling to identify skilled workers to fill entry-level vacancies in high-demand sectors. Middle-skill jobs (primarily in computer technology, nursing, and high-skill manufacturing),which require some postsecondary technical education and training—and will account for nearly half of all new job openings from 2010 through 2020—are in particularly high demand.[1] In fact, a full two-thirds of employers indicate they have difficulty filling job vacancies due to applicants with insufficient experience and substandard work habits.[2]

Grobe, Martin and Steinberg, 2015


In today’s globally integrated, innovation-driven, knowledge-based economy, access to an educated, skilled, and trained workforce is a necessity. Existing businesses need high quality labor to thrive in a competitive economy while a quality workforce is essential to new business attraction. Furthermore, aligning educational and workforce development systems with business and industry demand is critical.

Proposed Career and Youth Workforce Development and Needs Program

The Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce’s vision is to be a catalyst for business prosperity.

Elevating the educational attainment, workforce skills and increasing awareness of vocational/technical careers is essential to business prosperity and an economically and socially vibrant community. One strategy to achieve our vision is to form a public-private partnership with USD 348 to establish a Career and Youth Workforce Development & Needs Program, in alignment with local business needs, that provides education and training opportunities while supporting academic achievement, educational attainment, and curriculum alignment.

The overarching goal is to connect students with local businesses, at many levels throughout their preK-12 tenure, and to provide knowledge, skills and training opportunities required for employability through integrated, rigorous curricula coupled with active engagement of employers.

Connect & Equip

A Career and Youth Workforce Development & Needs Program will equip USD 348 students with an awareness of local businesses, awareness of local career opportunities, awareness of the skill sets and credentials required to secure employment, direct connections with local businesses including in-school programs and experiential learning opportunities as well as knowledge and skill acquisition through USD 348 curriculum to secure employment. Essential is integrating workforce development in the workplace environment by creating opportunities to foster connections to employers. In fact, according to Dr. Diane DeBacker, Executive Director of Business and Education Innovation – Kansas Department of Commerce, youth workforce development requires strong partnerships between educators and business to stimulate both career awareness and associated educational/technical training requirements as well as providing mentorship.[3]


What does that look like?

Elements for effective workforce programs include:

  • Academic and technical training, including a focus on employability skills.
  • Social and other support services (e.g., counseling; academic advising and tutoring).
  • Awareness and understanding employment opportunities in the local labor market (career fairs, entrepreneurial competitions, business/industry site visits, professional speaker series, in-school training, job shadowing).
  • Early work experiences (e.g., paid employment, internship/mentorship, or work-based learning) are especially critical for young people. The most effective place-based programs have significant and sustained employer engagement.


Program Components

  1. Business Owner Needs & Challenges – Since January 2017, the Chamber Director has conducted multiple one-on-one conversations with owners from our manufacturing companies about business challenges. Key responses included lack of student awareness of the range of jobs available in the manufacturing sector; unskilled workforce; lack of education/training and; employee attraction and retention.
  2. Partnership Formation & Planning – In June 2017, the Chamber approached Superintendent Dorathy regarding interest in initiating a youth workforce development and needs program that integrates USD 348 Curriculum – USD 348 Students – Baldwin City Businesses. The goals are to 1) identify business workforce needs and gaps; 2) increase student awareness of Baldwin City businesses and career opportunities in Baldwin City—especially in the manufacturing and technical industries; 2) provide experiential learning opportunities including quality job opportunities to students by providing exposure, training and skills, while helping to sustain and expand manufacturing industry Baldwin City.
  3. Baldwin City Visioning – In 2018, the Chamber in partnership with the City of Baldwin City initiated a “Baldwin City Visioning” initiative with the goal to formally adopt a City vision developed through multiple community forums. Forums included discussion on the business sector’s challenges and needs that could integrate youth workforce development.


Phase I: Research, Planning and Program Development (January 2018 – August 2018)

  1. Workforce Needs Assessment Survey – Conduct a Baldwin City business community survey to determine the current and future skill sets required as well as deficiencies in the workforce. The survey seeks to understand the areas of workforce education and training that need improvement to ensure that Baldwin City employers have access to adequately educated workforce. This information will be provided to the education community (USD 348 as well as area technical schools) in order to begin adapting programs to these requirements. The information from businesses will be essential to providing the educators with the ability to create programs of value to the local business community.
  2. Establish database on current business-USD 348 programs, activities that contribute to youth workforce development.
  3. Develop an integrated youth workforce development program based on workforce needs assessment survey, focus groups with Baldwin City businesses and USD 348 staff and faculty input.


Phase II: Implementation of Career and Youth Workforce Needs Program (August 2018 – in perpetuity)


Table 1. Points of Integration*

Mechanism Grade Level
In school visitations – share information about business, career Elementary
Student fieldtrips – class or grade level excursions to business Elementary
Project Planned Learning – curriculum development inclusive of experiential learning opportunity with business Elementary–IC
Business site visits with focused group of students during “Career and Life Planning” class Junior High
Career Fair Junior High
Apprenticeships/Internships Junior High, High School
Summer Employment High School
Faculty “Extraship” – faculty business immersion during summer for training and employment All

*Based on feedback from USD 348 principals.



Grobe, Terry, Nancy Martin and Adria Steinbert. 2015. Creating Pathways to Employment – The Role of Industry Partnerships in Preparing Low-Income Youth and Young Adults for Careers in High-Demand Industries. Jobs for the Future and National Fund For Workforce Solutions.

[1] Kochan, Thomas, Finegold, David, & Osterman, Paul. 2012. “Who Can Fix the ‘Middle-Skills’ Gap?” Harvard Business Review. Accessed April 2015. https://hbr. org/2012/12/who-can-fix-the-middle-skills-gap.

[2] Manyika, James, Lund, Susan, August, Byron, Mendonca, Lenny, Welsh, Tim, & Ramaswamy, Sreenivas. 2011An Economy that Works: Job Creation and America’s Future. New York, NY: McKinsey Global Institute. Accessed March 2015. com/insights/employment_and_growth/an_economy_ that_works_for_us_job_creation

[3] Personal conversation 2018 Kansas Rural Opportunities Conference, Newton, KS.