woman smiling, wearing glasses and a suit
Ann Hutchison
President & CEO

For comments and questions about this blog, please email Ann at [email protected]

Welcome Back to School – and Work-based Learning!

by | Aug 22, 2023 | From the CEO

woman smiling, wearing glasses and a suit
Ann Hutchison | President & CEO

For comments and questions about this blog, please email Ann at [email protected]

Happy Tuesday!  And welcome back to school to all of our K-12 kiddos and CSU students.  I’m not really sure where summer went – but the energy around town as everyone heads back to school is tremendous.

As we contemplate the return to school, I’m excited to share an update on the success of the K-12 Work-based Learning Workforce Innovation Grant managed by the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with our local districts.

For those new to the conversation, here is a bit of history:

In the spring of 2022, The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce applied for, and was granted one of the federally funded Larimer County Economic and Workforce Development’s Workforce Innovation Grants. The Chamber served as the “glue” that took an idea that had been spinning around education for a number of years and turned it into reality.  The two-year grant has many goals with one of the most important being to help solve pressing workforce challenges by financially supporting innovative pandemic-recovery plans. The Chamber contracted with Stefanie Merrell and created Northern Colorado’s K-12 Work-based Learning Business Liaison.

Stefanie works solely on the business side of work-based learning (WBL) and alongside the WBL teams at Colorado Early College, Poudre School District, Thompson School District and Estes Park School District. Ultimately, the grant hopes to prove the concept that with adding intentional business support in the space of WBL, we can make more connections between businesses and work-ready students.

We are now mid-way through this grant cycle, and I’m happy to report that this idea works! WBL opportunity requests in participating high schools for the 2022-2023 school year increased to 1,500–up from 911 in 2021-2022.  This tremendous growth benefits both business and students throughout our region.

Stefanie’s work continues through Spring of 2024.  She is our key community leader, educating our local business community about WBL, and Xello – the platform used to connect business and students.  She also provides consulting directly to business to help them  partner with local school districts. The Fort Collins Area Chamber continues to be all-in to support the great work being done in this space!

Contact Stefanie to learn more about work-based learning, Xello, and the partnership with Northern Colorado school districts.

Stefanie Merrell, K12 WBL Business Liaison
[email protected]

The WBL Connection: How is the connection made between the business and the student?

The electronic tool, Xello, supports work-based learning as a connecting platform of student and business information and opportunities. Within Xello, students have the chance to connect to meaningful work as it relates to their anticipated career pathway. Businesses work with Stefanie to build their presence in Xello, connect, and ultimately engage with their future workforce, today.

Examples of WBL opportunities:

· Career Fair (receive invites to district/school career fairs)

· Guest Speaker (be invited to speak to a class or club)

· Informational Interview (connect with a student for Q&A)

· Job Shadow (host students at your business to learn more)

· Volunteer Opportunity (volunteer/service for students/groups)

· Workplace Tour (be contacted for individual or group tours of your business)

· Mentorship (support a student, group, class, or club for projects and more)

· Paid Employment

· Internships