Summer Work-Based Learning Experience Turns into Job Opportunity for Students

STEM BEST Students at CurbTender
Supported by the STEM BEST Program, a summer Cedar Falls work-based learning experience for Associates Frank Zhang (Sr.) and Jacob Smothers (Jr.) became an employment opportunity.
For nearly three years, Cedar Falls high school students have had the opportunity to participate in a STEM BEST model they call Cedar Falls Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) during the school year. With the support of a STEM BEST Program award from the STEM Council, a summer course was added to the curriculum. 
The summer STEM BEST model offered an accelerated form of its unique professional program to incoming high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. Five student-associates participated in the 19-day program hosted at Viking Pump in downtown Cedar Falls with Nate Clayberg instructing their sixth cohort of student-associates.
The Cedar Falls program focuses heavily on being innovative in education and preparing students for their future. This is accomplished through real life projects for local companies that help apply problem solving and professional skills to the work environment and place a key focus on career exploration to help guide associates beyond graduation.
Following a final presentation in early July at Mill Race Coworking and Collaboration in Cedar Falls, two of the associates stood out to a local manufacturing company. Curbtender President Kevin Watje connected with Senior Frank Zhang and Junior Jacob Smothers about their interest in interning for his company after learning about the skills they had been developing for a project using a computer aided design software program called Solidworks.
With the professional skills they had practiced through the STEM BEST model, both associates coordinated interview times with Watje and negotiated their hiring with the local company. Opportunities created through partnerships like these for high school students shows the true mutual value the program has for local business and schools. Curbtender has now hired three Cedar Falls associates to be paid interns in the engineering and design department at their Cedar Falls site.
The STEM Council is committed to supporting more programs that provide authentic work-based learning partnerships across Iowa. Applications are now being accepted through September 13 for the 2019-2020 academic year. For more information, visit
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