Exploring Career Pathways and Essential Skills in Today’s Workforce: Connecting Education and Employers to Enhance the Student Experience

On April 17, 2023, the Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce presented “Exploring Career Pathways and Essential Skills in Today’s Workforce,” part of our Accelerating Equitable Success spring webinar series. The Chamber partners with local high schools to provide a six-session Certificate of Employability Workshop. The initiative aims to bridge the gap between students/education and employers/businesses. Employers from all industry sectors participate in the workshop, sharing about the various careers in their pathway, the education level needed for different careers, and key essential skills. Students gain information about local businesses, the various career pathways available in the Sauk Valley, and the importance of essential skills in the workplace. Upon completing the workshop, students receive a certificate of completion they can use when applying for employment. This webinar explores the workshop’s structure, employers’ and teachers’ roles, and student feedback about the program.


Kris Noble, Executive Director, Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce

Kris Noble has been with the Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce (SVACC) since 2014 and the Executive Director since 2015. As Executive Director, her responsibilities include implementing the strategic plan developed by the Board of Directors. The three key priorities include: providing value to membership, strengthening the local community, and enhancing community leadership. She oversees two staff and over 200 volunteers to develop objectives and implement action to accomplish the strategic priorities. In 2018 Kris led the SVACC to a 5-star accreditation status with the United States Chamber of Commerce. In 2019 the SVACC was awarded the Outstanding Chamber of the Year by the Illinois Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. In 2021, the SVACC was the first chamber to be recognized as an IACCE Certified Chamber. Kris uses her background in community development and building relationships to promote workforce development between education systems and the business community.

Rebecca Koerner, Internship Coordinator and Special Education Teacher, Sterling Public Schools

Rebecca Koerner has been in education for over 24 years and is currently a Special Education Teacher at Sterling High School.

Rebecca’s passion is educating high school-aged students on the various employment opportunities within our community. She currently teaches two classes to special education students regarding interviewing and employment skills. She also coordinates and administers classes on workplace internships for all juniors and seniors and supervises classes in the work-training program.

The work-training program awards students school credit for working outside of school during a portion of their normal daily schedule and is available to all students. Her goal with the special education students is to teach them employment and life management skills that are critical to success in any job. Her passion has always been to get the students into the community to be productive citizens in a work setting that best fits the skills they offer.

Rebecca collaborates with the local Chamber of Commerce to invite employers to the classroom to discuss what they look for in an employee and what jobs are available in the community. She also works with the local Chamber of Commerce Director, Kris Noble, on the newly developed internship program. The two meet during the summer and discuss potential businesses that would like to partner with Sterling High School to allow students to observe what work-life looks like in a career they may be interested in.

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