While Dylan Boerboom always liked welding, he didn’t know how to get his foot in the door until he started the Welding Certificate Program at Marshall Area Technical and Educational Center (MATEC).
MATEC is an alternative learning center for students in grades 9 through 12. It collaborates with Minnesota West Community and Technical College and the business community to provide career and technical education, providing a model for addressing local and regional education and employment needs.
“Career training before you get out of high school made such a huge difference for me,” said Dylan, who started at MA-TEC his junior year of high school. “I had kind of an idea of what I was going to do but I had no idea how I was going to go about do it. It really, really helped me set up for my future career.”
An internship with Bend-Rite Fabrication in Marshall helped Dylan land a job there full-time as a welder when he graduated high school in 2016. He’s still at Bend-Rite, and still enjoys his job.
“It’s never the same thing more than once. It’s always something different,” Dylan said.
MATEC, a Southwest Initiative Foundation past grantee, also offers a certified nursing assistant (CNA) course. Nursing assistant is one of the most in-demand job openings in southwest Minnesota, with a regional median wage of $25,771 annually.
Local CNA students get hands-on experience at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center, where Hayley Jerzak is nursing services supervisor for Avera Morningside Heights Care Center, a skilled nursing facility. Morningside Heights constantly has openings for CNAs. With workforce changes, employers today have to be more proactive in recruiting, Hayley said.
“It’s us searching out the right people for the job, really trying to sell ourselves,” she said. “Getting in front of MATEC and some of the entry level opportunities is where it starts.”
Nursing has been a rewarding career, and offered opportunities to grow, Hayley said. She spent about 8 years as a CNA before adding licensed practical nurse (LPN) then registered nurse (RN) to her credentials.
At Avera, CNAs are encouraged to pursue additional education if they’re interested. That’s Heather Kelly’s plan. She completed MA-TEC’s CNA program this year in a class with a dozen other students of various ages. MA-TEC has integrated classes that combine high school students, college students and adults from all socioeconomic levels learning together.
Now Heather is working at Avera as a homemaker. She’s the first person residents see in the morning. She helps them shower, brush their teeth and take out the garbage, then supports them wherever the day leads.
“I bowled with the patients the other day. There’s so many things to do. Your day goes really fast, that’s for sure,” said Heather, who found MA-TEC through Adult Basic Education. “If this is what you’re supposed to do, it will be easy.” (Hear from Heather)
Making it easier to transition to a successful career is a key part of SWIF’s framework for closing the opportunity gap. Research shows getting at-risk youth get on the road toward a life of meaningful employment and social engagement will give all our kids a better chance to succeed. Learn more about the framework and Grow Our Own.