Nonprofit, schools plan workplace-learning program in Santa Rosa

SANTA ROSA -- Santa Rosa City Schools is preparing to offer a new district-wide career readiness program this fall, partnering with the nonprofit Tomorrow's Leaders Today to offer a 10-week course capped by a 40-hour internship with a regional employer.

With some additional funding earmarked by the Sonoma County Office of Education -- the course will roll out with an inaugural two classes and be available by application to any junior or senior in the district.

It is the latest effort to connect students with regional employers in Sonoma County, with a goal of fostering "soft skills" needed to function in the workplace and help strengthen the pathway connecting companies with a local talent pool.

"It's another example of a public-private partnership, bringing more organizations together to support work-based learning," said Stephen Jackson, director of career development and workforce preparation at the Office of Education.

The yet-to-be-named program is the second for Tomorrow's Leaders Today, after a leadership course offered for more than two decades to high school juniors in Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Windsor and Petaluma.

Students will receive academic credit for completing the entire course, which has two distinct phases. In the first eight-week portion, instructors will focus on work skills like collaboration, communication and organization. The second two-week phase will involve the internship.

By scheduling the internship portion after the soft-skills course, students are expected to be prepared for the workplace environment, said Katie Barr, executive director of Tomorrow's Leaders Today. Even for college and high school graduates, those skills are often lacking, she said.

"We're focused so heavily on the academia part of it, we don't focus on the soft skills," Ms. Barr said.

Sonoma County Schools currently offers a number of career technical education programs, with three-course "pathways" in areas like agriculture, construction and a recently revamped Geospacial Technology Pathway at Piner High School. The soft skills focus of the new course could help to compliment those other programs, said Debi Batini, director of career pathways and community outreach for the district.

"What's unique about this course is that it is really focused on work-based learning, while the pathways focus on the whole industry," she said.

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