Collab Lab 20: Recap & Notes

At the end of March, we met with a group of group of students from Reagan High School who were working in or looking for internships in STEM fields. We heard three key concerns:

  • Students want a chance to exercise the skills they’ve been developing
    Students want the internship to be a chance to learn
  • Outside a few narrow fields, STEM internship opportunities for high school students are difficult to find
  • If students don’t get a chance to grow and learn, an internship is “just a job”, and those take a lot less effort to find.

In our May session we explored several issues around creating effective STEM internships for high school students. We began the evening with a review of what we heard from the Reagan students, and identified a few additional issues:

  • Internships are a new norm for K-12 schools (which have been focused on college prep)
  • Lack of buy-in around career readiness from industry, schools, and students
  • A reliance on university students for internships may be misinformed, particularly when it comes to computer programming
  • High level of on-going coordination required
  • It’s difficult for companies to identify schools with strong programs (from which to recruit)

Round 1

With this as background, we asked participants to inventory the problems to be addressed, and with the help of a couple of volunteers, sorted those responses into the following groups:

Potential Careers

  • Schools not doing enough to introduce the world of possibilities to students
  • Where do we find the resources to support students who want internships
  • High school students as seniors still only know basic STEM careers (doctor, nurse, engineer)


  • Students need summer pay
  • Students do not have transportation
  • Companies not willing to work with MPS schools
  • Companies not looking to the “experts” in the schools to assist w/career experiences
  • Let’s not forget about the MPS HS kids not in Reagan, King, Riverside
  • Internship logistics– not appealing or logistically difficult for minors/teens
  • If internships don’t work, what are other options?
  • Companies moving out of the city
  • Resources & funding both in education & industry
  • Legal barriers– minors, health care specifically
  • Transportation needs
  • Business & school partnership
  • Business support
  • How do we educate employers on the importance of internships
  • How to develop a mutually beneficial work relationship between employer and student
  • AP Java or AP anything can’t be the gatekeeper to these opportunities
  • Not having a dedicated person (100%) at each school focusing on career readiness
  • One day field trips/job shadows get kids excited but are disconnected or not continued
  • Students lose STEM engagement
  • Helping our community understand the world of work has changed


  • Exposure to different career fields
  • Exposure to local companies/orgs
  • How can we expose students to career based learning experiences so they know what they want to do/don’t waste time & $ post-secondary?
  • Career based learning experiences in building
  • Off-site experiences
  • Job shadows
  • High schoolers need a way to explore future options
  • Students liking “engineering” but not wanting to further pursue as a career
  • Kids go to college not knowing what they to study/do for a living
  • Convincing students/parents to look at the bigger picture– experience vs test scores
  • Expose kids to advanced topics earlier
  • Internships/work experiences that offer meaningful ways to engage students in school
  • How to increase significant student exposure to careers
  • We want to grow MKE as tech hub but students have little to no tech exposure
  • Real world work experience for teens


  • Equity– females & underrepresented minorities in IT
  • Kids need significant role models
  • Generate a community culture of learning and support
  • Family involvement (for support & buy-in)
  • Increase talent pipeline
  • Frequent, immediate, continuous check-in and support
  • How do we monitor long-term investment and impact on interns
  • Viewing high schoolers as capable of doing meaningful work
  • To build a common system that supports students and industries
  • Funding to allow access for every kid who wants to experience

Teaching Skills

  • Develop human skills — robot-proof education
  • Teachers not always equipped to assist w/career readiness
  • Pre-employment skills building
  • Shape curriculum to better match the real world
  • Social-emotional skill building
  • Students need employability skills
  • Application of skills vs content knowledge
  • Kids don’t have the soft skills employers seek
  • Ensuring school coursework is relevant– tied to industry competencies
  • Communicating K-12 → post-secondary →industry and adjusting as skills adaptively grow
  • Stop treating tech like a science and more like an art
  • Health care based research projects
  • Project based internship programs– what does this look like in health care?
  • Career readiness after leaving the academic environment

Round 2

We chose three areas to focus on for the remainder of the session, and split into groups to explore each topic.  Here’s what we came up with:

Teaching Skills


  • Conflicting priorities of K-12 educators, industry, and curriculum

Driving factors/barriers:

  • Lack of regional coordination
  • Lack of frequent and effective collaboration
  • Culture of STEM education
  • Educators are at capacity


  • TEALS (Microsoft program to tap industry professionals to launch computer science programs in schools.
  • SafeNet’s high school internship program (company treats program as a donation, students work on tech projects for non-profits)

Parties Involved:

  • Students
  • Educators
  • Industry
  • Parents




  • Students lack exposure to career based learning experiences

Driving factors/barriers:

  • Lack of staff buy-in
    • Curriculum incorporation
    • Knowledge of industry
  • Lack of clear District/Industry connections


  • Staff PD
    • Industry
    • Curriculum support
  • Look at successful districts/schools

Parties Involved:

  • Top down involvement (administration to teachers)
  • Industry
  • Post secondary educators/administration



  • Lack of equitable & accessible resources allocated to students in need of most support


  • [Lack of] Social & emotional support
  • [Lack of] School based career support
  • [Lack of] Student to student support
  • [Lack of] Transportation
  • No social capital
  • [Lack of] Role models (who look like them)
  • Achievement gap


  • Positive feedback loop of near-peer mentors
  • Partner with corporations and communities
  • Change perception of what is professional

Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space, Brian King for facilitating, and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Tamera Coleman– Internship Coordinator, Milwaukee Public Schools
Matthew Hunt– College & Career Readiness Specialist, New Berlin High School
Ariana Radowicz– University Relations, Rockwell Automation
Molly Schuld– Science Teacher, Ronald Reagan High School
Laura Schmidt, Strategic Advisor to the Superintendent – School District of New Berlin

Collab Lab 14: Recap & Notes

We put together our November session with help from Susan Koen and Stacey Duchrow from Milwaukee 7’s Regional Talent Partnership.  In their work to help develop the talent pipeline for industry in southeastern Wisconsin, they see a number of systemic issues that get in the way of effective career based learning experiences for students.  We set up the session with the aim of mapping out factors which contribute to successful CBLE’s and identifying the key places where collaborative efforts might make a difference.

For this session, we split the attendees across 5 tables, where each participant shared their thoughts on key goals, and came together as a team to share those the felt were most important with the entire group.  These included:

  • Help students find their passion
  • Students/Mentors develop relationships that allow them to know each other as a person
  • Students Stay in School
  • Students are able to build 21st Century skills
  • Teachers are prepared and energized

We followed this with a second round of where participants shared their thoughts on key factors which help reach those goals or stand in the way.  Again, each table came to a consensus on on the key factors to share out with the larger group.  These include:

  • Students are prepared for CBLEs
  • Students have a voice in their learning
  • Students have access to a number of diverse experiences
  • Students have the resources (transportation, etc,) to accept CBLE opportuntities
  • An organization wide culture within schools supports CBLEs (as opposed to a focus on college preparedness)
  • Teachers have the resources they need to deliver on their end of CBLEs
  • Policies (state & district) support CBLEs
  • Leadership embraces 21st Century skills
  • The level of collective will (in support of CBLEs)
  • CBLE is part of general conciousness
  • Employers recognize the benefit of CBLEs
  • Teachers’s ability to connect curriculum to CBLEs
  • Schools/industry have a common understanding of what a partnership requires
  • All stakeholders have an equal voice
  • Employers have program in place to support CBLE
  • Teachers are prepared to be coaches
  • Schools/partners have dedicated resources to make CBLEs work

As we talked through each of these factors in turn, we built up a map that gave us a first draft how these factors influence each other, and thereby, the goals we have for CBLEs.  We ended the session by having the participants identify, by placing dot stickers on our map, the factors they felt were most important.  The key items for the group as a whole:

  • An organization wide culture within schools supports CBLEs (as opposed to a focus on college preparedness)
  • Schools/partners have dedicated resources to make CBLEs work
  • Schools/industry have a common understanding of what a partnership requires

Next Steps

We’ll be working with Milwaukee 7 to pull together follow on sessions to drill into each of the top three factors and from that, identify where collaborative efforts could make a difference. Interested in participating in one of these sessions?  Let us know:

    During the school dayA weekday eveningA Saturday morningA Saturday afternoonA Sunday morning







    Collab Lab 14: Effective Partnerships for Career Based Learning Experiences

    Collab Lab 14: Effective Partnerships for Career Based Learning Experiences

    What makes for an effective Career Based Learning Experience? What structural issues get in the way of creating those opportunities for students?

    In our conversations with educators we’ve heard a number of concerns around the ability to create effective CBLEs for students:

    • Identifying mentors/experts for student projects that also know how to work with students
    • Finding appropriate intern/apprenticeship opportunities that align with student schedules
    • Identifying opportunities for students to work with area business and organizations on real world problems at an appropriate level and scope
    • Developing a network of connections that can help students follow a path of their choosing

    Our aim in this Collab Lab is to build a clear understanding of structural problems around CBLEs that collaborative efforts could help resolve. To that end, we’ll work together to:

    • Define ‘worthwhile experiences’
    • Discover/inventory structural issues impacting stakeholder effective participation
    • Walk through a model for effective collaboration

    Come share ideas with your colleagues at public, private, and charter schools from across greater Milwaukee, as well as some folks outside of K12 who offer an interesting perspective on the topic.


    5:30 – 6:00 Grab something to eat and drink, say hello

    6:00 – 8:30 Let’s learn from each other

    Food and beverage will be provided. There is no charge for participation but space is limited!


    Featured Participants

    Among others, you’ll have a chance to talk with:


    Susan Koehn, Director of the Milwaukee7 Regional Talent Partnership

    Susan Koehn is Director of the Milwaukee7 Regional Talent Partnership, which connects employers in Southeast Wisconsin with the right talent supply chain partners to fuel business growth. Susan served as Innovation Fund manager for the Milwaukee7 region’s WIRED Initiative in 2008-09. Through the Department of Labor’s WIRED Initiative, regions integrated economic and workforce development activities to demonstrate that talent can drive economic transformation. From there, Susan moved into a role with the Southeast WI Workforce Development Board, coordinating Workforce Development Board activities in Kenosha, Racine, and Walworth Counties, before returning to Milwaukee7 and the work of regional economic and workforce alignment. Under Susan’s leadership, Milwaukee7 launched the GROW HERE Campaign, an effort to develop and retain young people in Southeast Wisconsin and fuel the critical talent needs of industry. She enjoys working with local partners to connect employers to their future talent pipeline and scale opportunities for career-based learning across the region.

    Stacey Duchrow, Business & Education Partnerships Manager — Milwaukee7 Regional Talent Partnership

    Stacy most recently served as STEM and District Assessment Coordinator for Union Grove School District in Racine County. There, she launched Union Grove’s first Career Academies – three STEM pathways in Biomedical, IT, and Manufacturing/Engineering including dual credit and work-based learning experiences. Stacey has a Bachelor’s Degree in Microbiology and spent 5 years at Abbott Labs as a Senior Quality Technician before seeking licensure as a teacher and an eventual Master of Educational Leadership Degree from Carthage College. She taught Biology and Physics in Kenosha Unified School District and was selected in 2010 as 1st runner up – Kenosha County Teacher of the Year.


    Allan Erickson, Curriculum Specialist – Career and Technical Education — Milwaukee Public Schools

    Al Erickson has been the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Curriculum Specialist in the Department of College and Career Readiness at Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) for almost two years. Prior to joining MPS in 2016, he was a civil and environmental engineer for 32 years. After (finally) graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the early 1980’s, Al joined CH2M HILL (a civil and environmental engineering consulting firm) where he worked on infrastructure improvement and environmental cleanup projects for clients across the United States. In his various roles over that portion of his career he enjoyed the opportunity to help society through projects to make water cleaner, transportation safer, and the environment healthier. As an engineer based in Milwaukee, he had the pleasure of working as a team member on a number of local projects including removal of contaminated sediments from Milwaukee’s Rivers, redesign and construction of Milwaukee’s freeway interchanges, and construction of Milwaukee’s deep tunnels and wastewater treatment plant improvements.

    In his role with MPS since January 2016, Al currently supports CTE teachers and encourages them to engage students in more career based learning experiences. His perspective on this issue is somewhat different than his colleagues because while with CH2M HILL he hosted a Wisconsin Youth Apprentice, conducted multiple in-school and in-office career based learning experiences for students (presentations and job shadows). He also led two professional development Job Shadow sessions for MPS teachers to help them understand what civil engineers do.


    DeAnna Leitzke, Milwaukee School of Engineering

    DeAnna is a professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering where she also serves as Chair for Servant-Leadership. In her role as chair, she provides students with opportunities to engage the community by leading service-learning projects throughout the Greater Milwaukee Area and beyond.



    Laura Schmidt, Strategic Advisor to the Superintendent – School District of New Berlin

    Laura has an MBA (Leadership Studies) from Marquette University. She worked for 15 years for Northwestern Mutual and was responsible for enterprise software, usability testing, and technology research.  She served as the Executive Director of an Education Foundation for 4 years before joining the School District of New Berlin as a consultant.  She represents the Superintendent in local, regional and state efforts designed to support a strong talent pipeline for the benefit of students as well as the state’s economy. She holds a Scaled Agilist certification to inform strategic planning and implementation efforts.

    2023-24 Collab Labs

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