Students /
October 14, 2020

The TriDistrict: Engaging High School Students with the Transportation Industry

The TriDistrict is a collaboration of three southeast metro-area school districts, which includes South St. Paul Public Schools, Inver Grove Heights Schools, and West St. Paul – Mendota Heights – Eagan Area Schools, and the high schools within them, South St. Paul High School, Simley High School and Henry Sibley High School, respectively. These three districts have a long history of working together in the areas of community education, special education services, transportation and Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE). The district share resources to help manage costs while still providing high-quality programming for students and families. Collectively, the TriDistrict serves more than 12,250 students in grades K-12, with approximately 3,500 students at the high school level. What is unique about our relationship, is that while many other districts compete, we collaborate. 

The TriDistrict Career and College Readiness Initiative is the latest collaborative effort between our school districts. In 2012, the state of Minnesota passed the World’s Best Workforce legislation. Among other things, this legislative mandate required that Minnesota high schools improve their efforts to ensure that all high school seniors graduate better prepared for whatever their next step is in life. It included the recognition that most careers will require additional learning beyond high school. Our Initiative seeks to help students answer questions like: What problem do I want to solve in the world?, What am I passionate about?, What are my strengths?, and How can I match my strengths and interests to a potential career? Our vision is for students enrolled in Henry Sibley High School, Simley High School, and South St. Paul High School to have a wide range of opportunities to learn about their interests and personal assets in order to engage in authentic, real-world career exploration activities. This includes helping them discover a career path and then make wise choices about their high school and post-high school education in order to enter the workforce or military with job-ready skills upon graduation from high school. It also includes graduating high school and moving on to successfully enroll in and complete a degree from any post-secondary institution. With the increasing demands of our diverse and changing workplaces and the globalization of our economies, it likely means both.   

The TriDistrict Career and College Readiness Initiative offers four courses through its TriDistrict Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program in the areas of Healthcare, Education, Business & Entrepreneurship, and Transportation.  TriDistrict CAPS is one of 62 programs like it across the United States, Canada and India.  There are 8 such programs in Minnesota. 

TriDistrict CAPS Courses’ Structures 

First Semester: A classroom experience located at a host partner’s site. 

Second Semester: An individual internship experience with a weekly “huddle” or meeting at the host partner’s site, typically on Wednesdays. 

While we separate our courses into two separate academic terms, TriDistrict programming represents a seamless, year-long experience. The uniqueness of the courses relies upon three key characteristics:

Interdisciplinary and Immersive Learning

In this new and exciting approach to learning, students learn not just from their teachers, but also from our community, business partners, and each other. To accomplish this, we require students accepted into TriDistrict programs to demonstrate a desire to work in a project and problem-based, authentic environment and be willing to follow host-site rules and policies, including partner and program dress codes. We value our TriDistrict partners and need students’ help in being excellent representatives of their schools and of the TriDistrict as a whole. By admission into this exciting opportunity, students become members of a unique community of like-minded individuals with an expressed goal of preparing for post-secondary learning or a chosen profession. Successful TriDistrict students are self-motivated individuals who have an honest desire for learning and enjoy being actively involved and engaged in their education. In becoming TriDistrict Program “associates,” both students and the faculty of the TriDistrict bear mutual responsibility for the development, success, advancement, and expansion of TriDistrict programs.

Another aspect of TriDistrict courses that is different from home high school courses is the location where courses are delivered. In both fall and spring semesters, students attend class on-site at a program partner’s work site. Students will be accountable to the additional policies and procedures of their host site during both the course portion in the fall and the internship portion in the spring. In both of these instances, the TriDistrict Program Coordinator and course instructors will work with host partners to ensure that these expectations for students are made clear early in the experience.

TriDistrict Professional Skills Development

Professional skills provide guidelines for desired and acceptable behavior by organizations in both their strategy formulation and day-to-day operations. A professional approach is necessary both for TriDistrict Program success and a positive program image. Business partners, parents, students, and interested parties expect professional and responsible practices.

TriDistrict CAPS chooses to make a public commitment to authentic business engagement by expressing and requiring codes of conduct and guidelines that are consistent with current business practices. In doing so, we require that these guidelines translate into practice and habit by TriDistrict students, instructors, administration, and business partners. Our program and its supporting documents outline specific responsible and ethical behavior inclusive of, but not limited to, the adherence to safety standards, attendance and timeliness, teamwork and communication, respectful relationships with mentors and guest speakers, proper use of technology, software and hardware, and respectful use and confidentiality of physical and intellectual property. Demonstration of professional skills is a percentage of TriDistrict students’ grades and a critical aspect of our relationships with our business partners.

TriDistrict Internships

Beginning at the end of January, students will put lessons learned from the fall into practice in an internship capacity. The intent of the TriDistrict internship experience is to provide students with the opportunity to gain real-world, hands-on work experience in professional work environments that relate to their academic and career interests and to prepare them for high-demand, high-skill careers. The internship program is also designed to provide TriDistrict Business Partners an opportunity to guide and evaluate future talent.

NOTE: TriDistrict students will have the opportunity to apply and be selected for an internship. TriDistrict internships are NOT guaranteed; therefore, a student must be selected by the business partner. TriDistrict does not place students in internships. Rather, students apply and are accepted by our business partners at each partner’s discretion.

The internship experience is integral to TriDistrict courses for a number of reasons: 

Student Benefits

  • Gain industry knowledge and explore career options in a field of interest.
  • Strengthen knowledge of the job search process, including developing interview skills as well as a résumé, cover letter, and digital networking profile.
  • Enhance professional skills necessary for success in the workplace.
  • Make valuable contacts and grow professional networks.

Employer Benefits

  • Build a pipeline of candidates, decreasing recruitment costs.
  • Act as advocates in recruiting other high school and college students.
  • Offer new perspectives and innovative ideas.
  • Assist employees with new technology.
  • Assimilate rapidly to part-time and full-time positions.
  • Provide leadership development opportunities for current employees.

Our programming relies upon the strong partnerships that we have been able to develop through collaboration with local chambers of commerce, as well as individual businesses.  Current and past transportation partners have included companies in diesel, heavy equipment, automotive, aviation, high-performance automotive sectors of the industry, and have been single, family-owned businesses and larger metro-wide and national leaders in their industries.  Interested in learning more?  Contact Ben Kusch, TriDistrict CAPS Program Coordinator at [email protected].