BIG LAKE, Minn. -- Levi Pramann is hunched over his work station, examining parts that will end up in high end medical devices. The work is exacting - it takes a keen eye and training. Lisi Medical Remmele is hoping Pramann is the key to its future in Big Lake.
"We ran the demographics and it comes up at 48," said Lisi Medical's Joel Abraham. He's speaking of a problem many businesses are facing. Workers are getting older, and there aren't enough young people in the pipeline to provide workers for the future. "So if you do nothing in ten years, what do you expect?" ponders Abraham.
Lisi Medical is not sitting back. The company has been partnering with the Big Lake School District to create apprenticeships for students who might be interested in technical jobs that pay well, and often do not need a four year degree.
Big Lake High School principal Bob Dockendorf considers the program a key to his students' success. While the high school has a track for students heading to college, the reality is, most Big Lake students do not go on to graduate with a four year degree. "Approximately 24 to 25 percent," said Dockendorf.
He wants to connect students with jobs that will secure a good future, and also help grow the community. "It's an investment in the future because kids are what we have for moving forward."
Big Lake is one of eight northwest metro school districts that are exploring all kinds of job opportunities for students who are looking for a future, but not necessarily a four year college program.
The Wright County Technical Center is working with all of the districts, creating internship and apprenticeship opportunities throughout the school year as well as the summer.
"The Wright Technical Center has classes that prepare students in automotive, welding, law enforcement, health careers, construction, early childhood education," said Mark Lee, who is work-based learning coordinator for what is official known as Wright Tech CEO.
"It's great for the company, they're grooming future employees, it's great for students-- they get a chance to do some career exploration, and, again, they're paid."
For Sean Delorenzo, who is headed to a four year college, it's a chance to see if the career he's long dreamed about in medicine is really for him. "Here I am, an aide, or certified nursing assistant, and I get to help in daily activities."
Some of the companies not only pay students, they offer tuition assistance, like Lisi Medical. Pramann is already taking advantage of it. "I'm going to St. Cloud Technical College to get my degree in machining." He might continue on to get an engineering degree.
Josh Lahr has one more year of high school. He'll combine his regular classes with his hours at Lisi Medical. He says the learning opportunities extend beyond the job. "They teach you about life, too. They give you life advice. They want you to be successful, not just in your career, but also in life."
Bob Dockendorf is actively recruiting more companies to take part. Big Lake High School is hosting an open house September 21st, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the high school at 501 Minnesota Avenue East in Big Lake.
Interested companies should register by September 8th by emailing Dockendorf at firstname.lastname@example.org.