College's Workplace Learning Connection named semi-finalist in Career Z Challenge

Kirkwood Community College's Workplace Learning Connection (WLC) has been named a semi-finalist in the U.S. Department of Education's Career Z Challenge. The initiative is an open innovation prize competition that seeks creative solutions to expand student access to high-quality, work-based learning (WBL) opportunities in order to prepare them for successful careers in today's workforce.

In order to be considered, WLC submitted a proposal that outlined a plan to engage collaborative and sustainable ecosystems of educators, businesses and industry, workforce professionals, and community stakeholders that will provide meaningful real-world career exploration and development opportunities to students in grades 9-12. As a semi-finalist, WLC will receive technical assistance to support the implementation of its WBL plan as well as access to learning workshops, peer collaboration and other resources throughout the 2023-2024 academic year. In addition, if all semi-finalist program requirements are completed, WLC will receive $10,000 in funding to use in pursuit of its mission.

To WLC Director Kristine Bullock, the semi-finalist designation is not only an honor, it's a learning opportunity.

"Kirkwood has a long history of partnering with Grant Wood AEA and all of the school districts in our region to bring career exploration experiences to 6th through 12th grade students," said Bullock. "We are excited to be selected as an exemplary work-based learning ecosystem and look forward to learning from districts and organizations across the country to bring more experiences to more students as part of our local workforce development efforts."

The college competed against schools, non-profit organizations and local education agencies across 35 states in being considered for the honor. If chosen as a finalist, WLC will receive enhanced and tailored technical assistance to accelerate the expansion and sustainability of its WBL ecosystem. Each finalist that meets all criteria will be eligible to receive a prize award of $150,000. Finalists will be announced in August of 2024.

Additional details about the Career Z Challenge can be found here. For more information about Workplace Learning Connection, go to

With more than 140 majors and programs, Kirkwood Community College boasts 16,000 annual college-credit students, while maintaining one of the lowest tuitions in the state. All degree-seeking students are eligible for federal financial aid and the college offers more than $3 million in scholarships each year to students from all walks of life. Kirkwood is a convenient, innovative and visionary educational leader that strives to remain affordable and accessible.


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