Steele County Works hosted their first annual signing day as high school students and local companies made commitments to each other in a ceremony at Owatonna High School. The event in the Small Group Forum on Wednesday included school officials, business leaders, politicians and family members.

Nine students were highlighted in the program with a short biographical recap of which company each is committing to. Leaders from Viracon, Federated Insurance, Daikin, Climate by Design, Ecumen and AmesburyTruth joined the students on stage.

Workforce Coordinator Anisha Zak said, "I serve youth ages 16 to 24 across the county. I do one-on-one career counseling with students trying to help them determine their career goal, which I'm sure all of you know is not an easy feat. Because you never really know what you want to be when you grow up because you think your know then you change your mind. The world is changing all the time."

Zak added, "Here at OHS, we continue to create a college or career-going culture. In October, we help our seniors apply during free-college-application week. In November we host our annual college and career fair. We also host three Made-in-Owatonna Days throughout the school year." She works with students from OHS, the Adult Learning Center, Adult Education, Blooming Prairie High School and Medford High School.

Owatonna High School Principal Mark Randal said, "I want to, first of all, thank our business partners for continued efforts in engaging our students in work programs. I think it's an excellent opportunity."

Superintendent Jeff Elstad said night's like Wednesday are his favorite parts of the job, "This right here is why I do this job...I'm going to shake your hand tonight and in a little over a month I'm going to shake your hand with a diploma in your hand as well...Education is more than taking tests and more than learning out of books...We are realizing a new vision of what 21st Century education looks like and that is interjecting as many relevant and authentic experiences into what you do everyday."

Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism President Brad Meier said, "We're celebrating your decision to enter the workforce here. We know there's a lot of celebrations for the kids that might be moving on to college and doing some other things. We think this is just as important, if not more important, that you're here working in our community."

Meier thanked Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz for being present at the signing. Representatives from Wenger and Federated Insurance spoke of their connections with Steele County Works and how students are integrating into their businesses.

Steele County Works has partnered with the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Owatonna Workforce Development, Inc, Owatonna Public School District and local businesses.