The Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas (JAG-K) program at Field Kindley Memorial High School in Coffeyville was recently awarded a grant of $36,000 by a local John Deere unit to help fund the program.

Over the past five years, the Coffeyville JAG-K program has developed a local partnership with John Deere Coffeyville Works. (JDCW). The manufacturing plant has made donations each of the past five years to help fund the in-school workforce-development program.

Going beyond making a financial donation, JDCW is making an impact on students by exposing Coffeyville JAG-K participants to opportunities and sharing tips on how to be successful.

The evidence-based educational program helps students prepare for post-secondary educational and employment opportunities. There are 78 programs in schools across Kansas, serving about 4,000 students. JAG-K students had a graduation rate of 96 percent for the Class of 2020.

Under the direction of Career Specialist Shayla Reliford, the Field Kindley Memorial High School JAG-K program serves 53 participants. The grant provided by JDCW pays for the local program’s JAG-K fees, administrative costs, and a portion of the Career Specialists’ salary. 

“We are so appreciative of John Deere’s financial support of the program at Field Kindley,” said JAG-K president/CEO Chuck Knapp. “It is an investment in the future workforce of Coffeyville that will change many lives.”

A panel of John Deere employees, representing a variety of roles within the company, spoke virtually with the JAG-K students. Invited to watch online were other JAG-K programs across the state. Students prepared questions in advance of the virtual meeting.

“Our objective was to create interest in the John Deere organization among our students,” Reliford said about the virtual panel discussion. “Our students were able to learn about opportunities that these employees have had, and how they prepared themselves for their careers.”

JDCW employs about 275 people at the Coffeyville location, assembling drive train components and producing parts for power systems for John Deere partners. Initially founded as Funk Manufacturing in 1941, the corporation was purchased by John Deere in 1989.

Michael Marquart, manager of Labor Relations for JDCW, said the company emphasizes giving back to the community, and it has made partnering with JAG-K a long-term commitment.

“If kids don’t know what’s out there and available to them, they’re going to miss the opportunities,” Marquart said. “There are some things about being successful in the workplace that you just can’t learn in a classroom.”

Marquart stressed that there is a role for nearly everyone at a large corporation like JDCW. He said the panel provided a look at the diversity needed to make a company successful.

“We wanted to provide a glimpse at everything from supervisors and data analysts and engineers and skilled tradesmen,” Marquart said. “From assembly to management of the company, we wanted as many roles as possible to be represented.”

“We are helping students gain a broad perspective on future opportunities, and exposing them to successful adults from a great corporation like John Deere can be very meaningful as they think about their own careers.” Reliford said.

JDCW recognizes that building a strong workforce in Coffeyville is critical to its future success.

“The skilled labor shortage is huge, and that will affect us a great deal in the future,” Marquart said. “We have to ask ‘How do we get young people to go into those trades?’ At the end of the day, it they don’t wind up coming to work for us, it’s still a great field to be in, and the demand for skilled labor is super high.”

JAG-K is a multi-year, in-school program for students in grades seven through 12 that offers tools to successfully transition students into post-secondary school, the military, or directly into the workforce with marketable skills. Participants in the program face multiple barriers to success that their JAG-K Career Specialist helps them overcome through a nationally-accredited, evidence-based model.

The 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization is a state affiliate of the national JAG program network which operates in 40 different states and territories. It is primarily funded through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant to the State of Kansas administered by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF). In addition to school districts and DCF, JAG-K partners with the Kansas Department of Education. Other JAG-K funding sources include AT&T, John Deere, Synchrony Financial, Taco Bell and Walmart.

To learn more about JAG-K, visit www.jagkansas.org, ‘Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas’ on Facebook, and on Twitter at @JAG_Kansas.