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Eyeing Iowa's Future

Ask Anna Jordal about Iowa’s future and she’ll tell you it’s in good hands.

As education and business events manager for Waukee Aspiring Professional Experience (APEX), Jordal is helping to build a pipeline of talent from local high schools to many of the state’s employers.

“We’re exposing high school students and their parents to unique and different career paths,” said Jordal, explaining that APEX is designed to provide students with real-world work experiences.

APEX is a collaboration between education, business and civic leaders in Waukee, which is located just west of Des Moines. Area high school juniors and seniors can sign up for an elective to participate in the program. During the school year, students spend 2.5 hours a day away from school – three days working in labs at APEX and two days at a local business.

“All you need is one business partner, one student and one teacher and you can do this,” Jordal said. “We call our students ‘associates,’ teachers ‘coaches,’ and businesses ‘host sites.’”

Jordal said APEX offers courses based on trends in the Des Moines metro area and across the state. The program focuses on five economic sectors that include:

  • Finance and insurance
  • Business, technology and communication
  • Engineering
  • Human services
  • Bioscience and value-added agriculture

While students receive a significant amount of training in their chosen area, Jordal said, their education starts with the basics.

“We coach our student associates on the “soft skills” first – dressing professionally, how to effectively communicate and present ideas, even interpersonal skills,” she said. “From there, they work on specific projects in the APEX labs and on-site with employers.”

Jordal said participating students aren’t required to have a minimum grade-point average or pay additional fees to get hands-on instruction in subjects like robotics, physical therapy, information technology, construction leadership and many more.

Jordal said 600 students take part in the program annually with a goal of adding another 100 students each year. APEX also offers science and tech camps for younger students during the summer months.

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