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Inspire Sheboygan County, a collaboration of educators and employers whose mission is to connect students to career experiences, is expanding its base of operations to Lakeland University as part of a broad new partnership which will better serve local students, employers and young adults.

Inspire will have access to office space at Lakeland's main campus with a second location at Lakeland's space in Jake's Cafe in downtown Sheboygan.

"We have admired the work Inspire Sheboygan County does in assisting local students to determine the right pathway for their future success," said Lakeland President David Black. "Since we both use cooperative education as a primary tool to help students grow and achieve their goals, this partnership makes sense because it will allow us to work together and better serve this region."

"Inspire Sheboygan County and Lakeland will work together to help students use experiential education to select the pathway best for their future, whether that's employment, a two-year degree or a four-year degree," said Nikki Kiss, Executive Director for Inspire Sheboygan County.

Inspire connects local high school students to local employers in a variety of ways, including through its Youth Co-op work experience. Students in the youth co-op program receive on-the-job training and evaluation through carefully planned and supervised experiences to develop, improve and/or refine occupational competencies required for a given career objective.

Youth co-ops are available in a variety of career fields including manufacturing, automotive, healthcare, hospitality and small business entrepreneurship.

Lakeland launched its Cooperative Education program last fall by partnering with more than a dozen local employers. The university has adopted cooperative education across all academic majors as a new way for students to earn a bachelor's degree.

Today, 250 Lakeland students currently participate in the co-op program, working in full- or part-time, credit-bearing positions for partner companies, earning valuable work experience and networking opportunities while continuing to progress towards their degree. Between scholarships and wages, students in this program are counseled to use their earnings to significantly reduce or eliminate post-graduation debt.

This new partnership will create bridges by industry to potentially transition students from youth co-ops into Lakeland's program. Inspire and Lakeland will collaborate on employer and mentor training and support, and high school co-op students will be invited to attend some meetings and activities of Lakeland's Co-op Student Association.

Other highlights of the Inspire-Lakeland partnership include:

  • Sharing advocates/trainers/liaisons for quality training of mentors and checks on student progress.
  • Co-hosting educational events for employers.
  • Offering the foundational courses for Lakeland co-op students as dual credit courses at local high schools.

Inspire was founded in 2013 as an outgrowth of the Business Education Partnership committee of the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce. It is funded solely by its member employers and school districts. Inspire typically serves more than 13,000 students per year in a variety of career based learning experiences experiential events that help high school student select a pathway following high school graduation. About 100 students currently participate in cooperative education while in high school.

Inspire Sheboygan County exists to support all schools in the offering of career experiences. Currently all public K-12 schools in Sheboygan County are served as well as three colleges and universities.

Learn more about Inspire at inspiresheboygancounty.org.

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