The Next Step for IASC Next Career Pathways

Patrow steps into role as new director 

The Itasca Area Schools Collaborative (IASC) Next Career Pathways program is beginning a new chapter as Scott Patrow steps into the director position. Patrow comes into the role with over two decades of experience and a passion for helping students explore all career paths.

Patrow began his career in education in 1988 as a business education instructor in Floodwood. He recalled needing to set up 10 worksites for the business internship students he would be supervising before the first day of school. However, he was hired in mid-August so there wasn’t much time before classes would begin. Thankfully, he was able to find those 10 work sites. Now he looks back on that experience as a precursor for his work with Career Pathways.

“That was a career pathway basically,” said Patrow. “It was a capstone class, a capstone program, which we still see that language today.”

From there, Patrow worked at Grand Rapids High School in the business education department. He took a job as the school-to-work coordinator for the district after a few years where he acted as a liason for the school to the business community.

“That also gave me a really good perspective of vocational type experiences for students,” Patrow commented.

Additionally, Patrow has received vocational licenses and worked on the Class Act program through Itasca Community College. He retired in the spring of 2021 after serving as the K-12 principal and activities of Bigfork Schools for 16 years. After enjoying a month of full retirement, Patrow started looking for an opportunity to fill his schedule once again.

“When I retired, I always knew I wanted to keep connected and stay busy and working,” Patrow commented. “Career Pathways had posted for a business engagement specialist which Claire Peterlin was the former director.”

Claire Peterlin is the former director of Career Pathways.

“Claire did an amazing job of pulling eight different schools together, creating an awareness, planning a foundation of how we want to have our pathways set up, going in and getting those set for each school,” Patrow stated.

Patrow felt that the job description for a business engagement specialist was the perfect match for his capabilities and what he was looking for. When Peterlin stepped away from the director position, it was offered to Patrow which he then accepted.

“It wasn’t like I’m going to try something totally new,” Patrow said. “This is something I have quite a bit of training and experience for.”

About Next Career Pathways

Next Career Pathways was created as a solution to the problem of employers needing skilled workers and a contrasting narrative saying there were no good jobs in Northeast Minnesota. Employers and schools in this area knew that they could better support students and show them the job opportunities that were available to them right in their backyard. Next Career Pathways came together through a collaborative effort between IASC, Itasca Community College, and the business community. The main goal? To allow students to have true career exploration in high school combined with real-world experiences that will help them through the next steps after high school.

“We want to help students determine what pathway they are suited for with their gifts, talents and abilities; and then also help coordinate experiences that best prepare them for the next step,” Patrow stated. “Whether that’s direct entry into the world of work, or more likely direct entry into some post-secondary education, whether that’s a two year or a four year.”

All high schools in the IASC offer Next Career Pathways. These include Grand Rapids High School, Nashwauk-Keewatin High School, Greenway High School, Deer River High School, Northland Community School, Bigfork High School, Hill City High School, and Floodwood High School. There are seven pathways within the program, including business, construction, computer science, healthcare, education, natural resources and agriculture, and manufacturing.

Patrow noted there are different sizes of schools participating in the program. From the largest school—Grand Rapids High School, to slightly smaller two section schools—Greenway, Deer River, and Nashwauk-Keewatin, to the smaller high schools of Bigfork, Floodwood, Hill City and Northland.

“All three bring unique opportunities, but also some challenges as well,” Patrow said.

Each school offers a registration guide for students to follow for each pathway. These guides show required and recommended pathway courses students should take to best step themselves up for success in their future careers. It also gives them an opportunity to see if they like the career field they are interested in, before committing to a post-secondary education program.

There are also opportunities for students to take a class offered at another school through interactive telepresence classrooms. IASC schools follow a common schedule which allows students to attend these classes seamlessly through this virtual collaboration.

Career Pathways is also working alongside IASC Carl D. Perkins Act Director Jane Shade to make sure the programs are working efficiently with each other. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act provides funding for secondary and postsecondary career and technical education programs.

The next steps for Next Career Pathways will be to really tackle the question of—why should a student take a career pathway? Patrow stated they need to work to improve their work-based learning experiences to supplement the academic part students are receiving at school, which will help students transition into that next step after high school. Opportunities could include internships, career fairs, guest speakers, job shadows and more.

“These need to be quality experiences, especially at the end of our pathways, culminating projects are called capstone projects. Those need to be really developed and refined to where a student will say this is one of the best things I did in my high school career.”

Upcoming highlights

This story is the first in a series of eight community highlights that will be featured in the Grand Rapids Herald Review. Keep your eye out for these upcoming stories which will all feature a teacher, student, and business from an area community where Next Career Pathways is making an impact.