The Dakota-Scott Workforce Development Board (WDB) recently held its annual Awards Celebration. Honorees included Cindy Nolan of Lakeville Area Schools, Gunner's Garage, Katie Moras of Prior Lake, Shakopee Community Assistance, Ben Kusch, Schmitty & Sons, and ALL, Inc.
Mark McAfee Friend of Workforce Development Award
Cindy Nolan, career pathways coordinator for Lakeville Area Schools, received the Mark McAfee Friend of Workforce Development Award, which is presented to an individual who has championed workforce issues at the local, state or federal level. Nolan's work focuses on designing and implementing programs serving parents, families, teachers and students from elementary school through high school.
“The ways in which Nolan has impacted and enhanced learning and career exploration opportunities has changed the course and conversation around workforce readiness in Lakeville Area Schools," said Krista Jech, Lakeville Chamber of Commerce president who nominated Nolan.
Bob Killeen Award
Gunner's Garage, Lakeville, received the Bob Killeen Award, which recognizes individuals or companies for their innovative or quality practices. Gunner's Garage has demonstrated innovation through many of their activities with the Lakeville Chamber's Lakeville Works program.
Gunner's Garage participates in the Youth Skills Training program by hiring and paying students for skill development in the automotive industry. It also was one of the first participants in the Good Work Lakeville video series about local companies hiring for in-demand jobs.
Business Champion Award
ALL, Inc., St. Paul, received the Business Champion Award, which is presented to an outstanding company that uses CareerForce services such as job fairs, job postings or training. The company was nominated by West St. Paul CareerForce staff, who specifically recognized Laura Miller off ALL, Inc., who regularly participates as Employer of the Day in West St. Paul and has had several success stories about hiring people from these events.
“She always comes in with a positive attitude; job seekers specifically ask when she'll be in next so they can follow up with her after applying," the nomination read of Miller. “She seems to generally care about the people she meets with."
Bob Klas Sr. Entrepreneur Award
Katie Moras, Prior Lake, received the Bob Klas Sr. Entrepreneur Award, which recognizes a local entrepreneur success story. The award is named after Bob Klas Sr., founder and chairman of The Tapemark Company, based in West St. Paul.
Moras founded El Bosque Encantado in 2013. A Spanish immersion early learning center for children ages 16 months to 8 years old, the school has grown from one staff member to 13–15. Moras helped develop the Prior Lake-Savage Schools pilot program for Spanish immersion instruction. Now in its ninth year, the program attracts and retains families that are seeking multicultural experiences. She also uses her learning center for women who are in recovery to advance their ability to provide their children educational opportunities that allow their children to break the cycle and succeed.
Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Award – Scott County
Shakopee Community Assistance (SCA) received the Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Award for Scott County. The award recognizes the recipient's commitment to preparing young people to enter the workforce. SCA is an independent, nonprofit, community support organization specializing in providing clothing, diapers and other household essentials to families in need from Scott County.
Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Award – Dakota County
Ben Kusch received the Willis E. Branning Excellence in Youth Employment Services Award for Dakota County. The award recognizes the recipient's commitment to preparing young people to enter the workforce. Kusch leads the TriDistrict's Career and College Readiness Initiative, which is a collaboration between South St. Paul Public Schools, Inver Grove Heights Community Schools and West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan Area Schools.
Over the past six years, Kusch and other leaders have been meeting with employers and community organizations, studying workforce needs and projections, and speaking with students, parents and teachers. The TriDistrict is reimagining the high school experience by developing new curriculum, offering new classes, forming community partnerships, and redesigning the career exploration and college search process.
Employer of The Year for People with Disabilities Award
Schmitty & Sons, Lakeville, received the Employer of the Year for People with Disabilities Award, which recognizes efforts to improve the lives of people with disabilities through employment.
Schmitty & Sons has partnered with different organizations to assist individuals with disabilities looking for employment. One of them — Great Work — sets up business tours. The company encourages individuals to apply for jobs on the spot and actively pursues qualified candidates. They hire people with disabilities in a variety of positions including school bus aides, bus detailers, wash stall, drivers and clerical staff.