What does success sound like?

As we rounded out four years of the Learn & Earn Youth Skills Training Program, we heard a consistent and resoundingly positive message from our 4th Cohort of student participants in their final presentations. They talked about how much their direct experience with employers in Manufacturing in Goodhue County mattered, along with the complete work ready L&E package offered.  Red Wing Ignite stewarded their experience through earning college credit and an OSHA 10 + Soft Skills Training credential, industry tours, and securing paid employer placements.

The value of industry tours:

  • “It’s been amazing what all the employers have done for us! Industry tours helped me learn how many job opportunities are here – and not small job opportunities – well-paying jobs.”  

Ryan Strusz, placed with Hearth & Home and Red Wing Shoe Company

  • “The industry tours were amazing, I never realized how many job options are available in my area.  Most of the companies we toured are places I didn’t even know existed.  The tours showed me how many variations of work there are in many different industries.”

Michael Slagle, placed with Knobelsdorff Enterprises and Red Wing Shoe Company

The value of employer placements:

In 2018, Goodhue County employers in advanced manufacturing met with Red Wing Ignite to discuss the creation of the Learn & Earn program.  Employers all agreed that this was a long term investment to develop the talent pool of high school students in the region, not a quick fix. Over four years, employers worked with RWI to provide meaningful engagement through manufacturers panels, virtual industry tours and career pathway discussions, all leading up to paid work site internships where Supervisors at each job site introduced students to the full spectrum of occupational work, the skills needed and the opportunities offered within their company.

The reflections students shared at the end of each year always emphasized the importance of being properly introduced to all of the great companies driving our regional economy.  90% of the time the majority of our students didn’t even know these companies existed.  We witnessed a heightened sense of pride in our region, and in themselves.

  • “I learned that teamwork and the quality of the work environment is very important and beneficial.  It influenced me in many ways:  to be consistent, to be assertive, to make it right, to be flexible.”

Robert Figueroa Parra placed at Gemini Sign Products.

  • “When I first came to the L&E program, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but after working with my employer placements, I discovered I have a big interest [in electrical work] so I will be going to MN State SE Tech Winona to pursue a career in Electrical Engineering.”


Drake Danovsky, placed with Central Research Lab and Knobelsdorff Enterprises


The goal of the MN State Legislature in funding the Dept of Labor and Industry Youth Skills Training Program is to introduce students to technical careers through “classroom instruction, safety training, industry-recognized credentials and paid work experience in high-growth and high demand occupations in the industries of advanced manufacturing, agriculture, automotive, health care and information technology.”


RWI led the Goodhue County Collaborative Youth Skills Training Program, forming partnerships across sectors that brought together 7 school districts, MN State College Southeast and Manufacturers and Agribusinesses to meet and surpass grant expectations.  MN State College Southeast Director of Business Relations located the best youth-friendly instructor to deliver our OSHA 10 Training… and not a single student missed his classes – all 89 completing and earning a college credit and industry credential! 

The value of OSHA 10 + Soft Skills training

  • I am so glad I had the OSHA 10 training, because once I started working, I could see how if you weren’t careful, or paying good attention to what you were doing, you could get hurt.

Jonathan Navas Sanchez, placed with Gemini Sign Products

Due to the breadth of community engagement, employer commitment, educational support, and leadership over the course of the school year, students become engaged in an ongoing process of self-discovery and transformation. The program models the importance of collaboration in providing integrated, applied learning experiences.

The overall value of this program cannot be measured in numbers.  Although we proudly celebrate that two students have been fully employed since their 2018/2019 placement with Central Research Lab and Gemini Sign Products, and others have secured part time work and summer jobs. More importantly, the students in the program stand a little taller, look you in the eye when speaking, take pride in where they are from, and feel more confident about where they can go from here!

The value of the L&E Program:

  • “L&E solidified what I want to do in my future and what career path I want to go into.  There are a lot of companies that I have never heard of until the L&E Program.  It really opened my eyes to all the job opportunities in and around Red Wing.”

Derick Evenson, placed with Knobelsdorff Enterprises and Custom Iron

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