If there is one thing Stan Winquist hopes his students learn in his career transitions class, it’s all the things he didn’t learn before leaving high school and college and entering the workforce.
“It all comes down to teaching the things I wish someone would have taught me,” Winquist said. “Most of what I’m teaching them is what I learned because I screwed up and I don’t want it to happen to somebody else.
“It’s almost like I am the parent giving advice but they’re forced to listen, because they’re graded on it.”
Winquist has been parenting, or teaching, the career transitions class at Glenwood Community High School for 15 years but its been around since the 1970s in one form or another. The intent of the course has always been the same, even if the curriculum has changed over the years.
The first semester of the course serves as a sort of “Gaining Employment 101,” with Winquist offering instruction on filling out job applications, building resumes and do’s and don’ts of job interviews.
“We do a mock interview where I have different people from businesses around the community who have experience in hiring people come in. The kids’ have to interview for a job with them,” Winquist said.
The second semester Winquist calls the “living on your own” semester.
“We talk about insurance, credit, getting an apartment, researching companies for finding a job, buying a car or a house. We have speakers come in for that too,” Winquist said.
The class is an elective only available to seniors. Most of his students, Winquist said, have light school loads and are out of class by noon most days when they then go to work at jobs here in town. Students must work a minimum of two hours per day to get credit in the work-study.
The class doesn’t have a traditional textbook, just a two-inch thick ream of handouts and information that was compiled by Winquist over the years and is constantly being tweaked with the changing times. Lectures deal with everything from where to look for jobs, writing resumes and business letters and what to wear to job interviews to paying taxes and filling out workplace insurance and benefit forms, living on a budget, getting credit and financing, signing a lease and how a car loan or mortgage works.
Larry Winum, president of Glenwood State Bank, is a big fan of the career transitions program. The bank, he said has been a work-study partner since the program’s inception and he often takes part in the mock interviews.
“We’ve had some great kids work for us over the years,” he said. “In fact some of them stay on even after going to college, as tellers or in bookkeeping. We’ve used them quite a bit. It’s a great program.”
For the mock interviews, Winum runs down a list of questions with the interviewees, sometimes offering feedback, other times just listening, staying in character. He particularly likes the fact the students are instructed to dress the part for interviews.
“They have to dress up,” Winum said. “No jeans. It’s the real deal. They come in and have to present their resume and have things ready prior to the interview. They stand outside and have to come in and introduce themselves. It’s a real process.”
Winum, like Winquist, didn’t have a similar program when he was in high school, but two of his three daughters did take Winquist’s course when they were in high school. Both seemed to enjoy the program and its many life lessons, he said.
“Stan does such a good job with the kids,” Winum said. “A lot of the kids have told me they’ve went out in the work force so much more prepared than other people they know. That’s a real tribute to Stan and the school for creating the program.”
Winquist said the program wouldn’t be possible without the support of businesses like Winum’s and others.
“Our businesses are really supportive and do a good job of showing kids what it takes to have a good midwestern work ethic,” Winquist said. “They learn to show up on time and be dependable. Some kids aren’t ready for that. A lot of that comes down to some kids having never been told or shown the proper way when it comes to getting work, going to work and even quitting a job.”
To pass the course, each career transition student must compile a portfolio consisting of the student’s career and personal goals, a personal essay, letters of recommendation, a resume, a list of activities completed in the semester and technology skills learned, as well as job applications. Students also must complete 20 hours of service learning.
“When they leave here for college or work I want them to know what they’ll need,” Winquist said. “Will they need a savings account, checking account? A debit card? Do they need a credit card? A lot of things I approach, when I tell them, is all based on what they’ll need next year or in fours years or if something might happen to them or when they get on their own, in that first apartment.”