Career academy will use hands-on learning to expand students’ exposure to career pathways

Pam Gibb, Moorhead Schools Communications Coordinator

“Students today want to make stuff, fix stuff, and wrap their minds around a complex problem or issue,” said Tamara Uselman, assistant superintendent of learning and accountability for Moorhead Area Public Schools. “Students want to get out of their desks at least part of the day and spend time collaborating with peers on projects. Rather than learning someone else’s answer to an issue, students want to step into the work and tinker, create, invent, solve, and share.”
According to Uselman, the district’s proposed career academy will allow for this.
In April, the Moorhead School Board approved moving forward with the purchase agreement for $4.25 million for the 137,000-square-foot former Sam’s Club building at 2800 27th Ave. S. in Moorhead to renovate for a career academy. The School Board voted in February to accept the High School Facilities Task Force recommendation to replace Moorhead High School on the existing site and add a career academy located on a separate site.
“While there will be additional costs to renovate the building, the purchase of an existing building provides a larger facility than new construction would,” said Superintendent Brandon Lunak. “Additionally the large lighted parking lot, the infrastructure, including features like automotive bays, and the easy access to Moorhead High and Red River Area Learning Center, make the site an excellent fit for the district’s long-term facilities planning.”
According to Uselman, finding the right program design for the career academy will require guidance from business and parent advisory boards and input from teachers and community members over the next year.
While many career academy students will learn skills to be workforce ready, the idea behind the academy is more to put students in a position of informed choice about which career field they want to dedicate their working lives to, Uselman said.
“The career academy is about applied career investigation,” she said. “Students explore career pathways, which may include medical and health careers, agriculture and food science, transportation, cyber security and IT, digital arts, construction, engineering and design thinking, and more.”
Jeff Schneider, industrial technology teacher at Moorhead High School, believes the career academy will be a great addition to the district.
“Our region is short on skilled workers, like ones who keep our water running, our food chilled, and our devices charged,” Schneider said. “These, and many other industries, are paying great wages and benefits so our society can have these amenities we desire. We want to make sure students have exposure to these and other career choices before they leave high school so they can make educated decisions about their future. This facility, along with community support, business and industry relationships, quality programming, and dedicated, knowledgeable, teaching staff, will do just that.”
Uselman said the career academy will supplement students’ high school education, making high school a more robust and desirable experience for many students by fulfilling their desire to explore and create.
“Students will build entrepreneurial mindsets, learn to work with diverse groups, and solve issues, which are all skills needed in a thriving democracy,” Uselman said.

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