McPherson business leaders and educators gathered Thursday to discuss how they can better help each other.

McPherson business leaders and educators gathered Thursday to discuss how they can better help each other.

Educators, along with parents, are constantly helping students determine what they want to do after high school graduation. The journey, which has endless possibilities, can be daunting.

Business leaders said they desire reliable, focused and personable workers, but the applications they sometimes receive do not meet their standards.

McPherson Superintendent Randy Watson said these two entities can work together to benefit the future of all involved.

“This is a partnership,” Watson said. “Everything we talk about today is a partnership between the student, the parents, the community and us.”

This collaboration begins within the school walls.

The district’s three college and career advocates — who were hired this year as part of USD 418's Citizenship, College and Career initiative — spoke about their role within the school. They meet with six- through 12th-graders two times per year to explore what students want to do after graduation and work with them to accomplish these goals. They also give them hard and soft skills assessments that can be used in job applications.

Gwen McClenton, with human resource at Disability Supports, is a parent of a McPherson High School senior and a junior at Kansas State University. She said she has noticed a difference between the younger student who met with the advocates and the older one who didn’t.

“It has made such a huge difference in getting a sense of direction to my high school senior,” she said.

“Especially getting ready for what she needs to look for in school and whether or not this is truly a career path she wants to choose.”

Moving forward, the advocates and administrators are looking to do more, but they cannot do it without the help of local businesses.

The district is looking toward a three-prong approach to more integrated learning, which involves school speakers, business facility tours and job shadowing.

Through these avenues, local professionals can give the students a clearer picture of their post-graduation goals. The businesses also can gain additional help of student workers, and develop a relationship that could lead to future employees who already are familiar with their system.

Business people who attended the meeting were given a survey, which asked ways they could partner with the schools in these three ways.

College and career advocate Stephanie Hamilton said this would show locals and residents elsewhere that McPherson is a good place to live and work.

“We can do things other people can’t because we already work together,” she said. “I think there are opportunities if (students) make connections and realize what’s here.”

Gary Hess, president of Go McPherson Inc., a community recruiting entity, also is a parent of a high school and college student. A partnership like the one being proposed at the luncheon, he said, would help students avoid what he has come to know as the $65,000 trial experience.

“I think this program is great from a student standpoint, because it gives them direction and helps eliminate mistakes, maybe,” he said. “That’s a big part to me.”

Additionally, he said, it can foster what businesses are looking for.

“You guys are saying, ‘We all need workers, but those who apply we’re not really liking.’ We’re trying to give a more refined, knowledgeable student who joins the workforce locally and becomes very successful for you.”

The event was coordinated by McPherson Area Human Resource Professionals in collaboration with the McPherson Chamber of Commerce.

Contact Jenae Pauls at and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel