The Bridges Career Academies offer students the opportunity to explore a career pathway and prepare for employment or post-secondary education through programs of study The Academy curriculum offers students personalized, practical, and integrated learning experiences. Students enrolled in the Academies take class at their high school and receive high school and in some cases college credit.
The Academies were developed in partnership with business and industry and are based on current high wage, high demand careers within local communities. Availability of the Academy options by career type varies at each high school.
Career Academies are based on the following key elements:
1) A Small Learning Community
- Career Academies are organized as small learning communities in which students traditionally stay with a core group of fellow students for several courses, perhaps several years.
- National organizations often support the career academies and provide students an opportunity to work together building relationships and soft skills.
- Several classes or disciplines offered solely to academy students in grades 9–12.
- Voluntary enrollment by students who are allowed to focus on a discipline of their choice.
2) College preparatory curriculum with a career theme.
- Career Academies combine academic and vocational curriculums into an integrated career theme (e.g., health, engineering,
- The combined curriculums include the following:
- Academic courses that meet high school graduation and in some cases used for college requirements.
- Projects that bring together skills acquired from academic and career classes.
- The opportunity for a student to develop a postsecondary plan.
3) Partnerships with employers, community, and higher education.
- Career Academies establish partnerships with local employers to build stronger connections between school and work, providing students with a range of career development and work-based learning opportunities.
- Academies also establish partnerships with community organizations, parents, and higher education institutions.
- Essential components of these partnerships include one of the following:
- Employers providing mentoring and/or job shadowing (i.e., opportunities for students to observe employees at work) in career fields.
- Community partners interested in the academy courses offered at high school
- Parents support a student’s decision to enroll in an academy and also participate in academy activities
- Institutions of higher education may give students college credit for the course
The Bridges Career Academies are coordinated by Central Lakes College, and supported by Central Lakes College, Brainerd Lakes Area Chamber, Carl Perkins Consortium, Initiative Foundation, Blandin Foundation, and the Otto Bremer Foundation.