Teachers at Work

Externships for Waconia Public Schools’ teachers, at Sackett-Waconia


Sackett-Waconia believes in supporting local education. We’ve done this by teaming up with other local businesses, the Waconia Chamber of Commerce, and the Waconia Public Schools teamed up to give local teachers real-world experience through the Teachers in the Workplace Externship. The externship, funded through a grant provided to the Waconia Chamber of Commerce’s Business Education Network, was a win/win/win for students, teachers, and local businesses. Other businesses involved in the externship included:  Waconia Dodge, Larkin Electric, Midwest Expanded Metal, HEI, Laketown Electric, Hoxie Homes, TMC Industries, Modern Design, and Cabinetworks Group.

The program builds partnerships and provides students with information about entry-level trade opportunities, through their teachers gaining real-world experience. This in turn gives local businesses an opportunity to recruit entry-level employees they need. According to Forbes Magazine manufacturers have a tough time finding employees to fill welding, machinist, and computer-controlled equipment operation.

“How does it look?” asked Farniok as he pointed out a weld. “It’s fine but the next one’s gonna be better.” Peter Brown, an industrial arts teacher at Waconia High School, nods his head and lowers the visor of his welding helmet. He pauses and pulls the trigger the wire feed welder and sparks fly. Brown and Dave Aeling, another industrial arts teacher at WHS make the welding exercise into a competition. There are a number of small pieces of straight and angled steel arrayed in front of them on a metal work station. Farniok looks on, adding tips or instructing along the way.

“Experience teaches more than schooling,” Aeling said. Schools can’t keep up with the newest technologies. Through internships and the Teachers at Work Externship program, “kids have an opportunity to make a connection to the real world.” Sackett-Waconia and WHS have had a partnership for a long time. “Students can validate what they learn in the classroom, by applying it,” Aeling said.

Aeling taught a number of current Sackett-Waconia employees. Paul Peterson, Director of Operations for Sackett-Waconia’s Minnesota facilities, took industrial arts and engineering classes from Aeling from 1991-96.

“Four-year degrees aren’t for everybody,” Peterson said, “a lack of workers is a big threat to our business.” Peterson encourages a relationship between his former school and current employer to help teachers better understand what industry needs are and what students need to know. Then they can be better prepared to enter the industry.

Aeling and Peterson are both hopeful that the trades get the respect they deserve. Sackett-Waconia tries to further the education of students, as potential employees, and current employees. Together with other businesses Sackett-Waconia has sent welders to metal classes, donated materials and equipment, and organized a trades career fair.

One Sackett-Waconia employee and former WHS Student took advantage of a part-time job and is turning it a degree. Aiden Schiro was looking for a job and saw an ad at school. Brown connected him with Peterson and he spent some time filing old invoices for Sackett-Waconia. Now Schiro is a full-time employee and attending Hennepin Tech for drafting and design and will be joining the engineering group. Sackett-Waconia helps with tuition.

“Hard work pays off,” said Schiro as he talks about the shop classes, auto maintenance, and engineering classes he took at WHS. Now he has a pile of work to do detailing bucket elevators.

Business and Education go hand in hand. This is why Sackett-Waconia proudly supports local students.

Local teachers from Waconia Public Schools try their hands at welding.

Sackett-Waconia welding lead Gayle Farniok (right) gives some welding pointers to Waconia High School Industrial Arts teacher Peter Brown (left).

Dave Aeling (right) looks on as Peter Brown (center) learns some welding tips from Gayle Farniok (left).