More than 230,000 students will be able to directly connect to businesses statewide as regions expand collaborative efforts

MADISON, WI.  Oct. 11, 2018 – Students throughout Wisconsin now have access to additional career development and mentorship tools starting as early as sixth grade in a platform that directly connects local employers to students, thanks to a new statewide collaboration.

School districts throughout the state have been using a web-based platform called Inspire at the local and regional level to connect area businesses to their future talent pool through online profiles, virtual career coaches, and career-based online learning activities for students and educators.

Under the new collaboration, instead of only having access to local and regional resources and information, Wisconsin students, educators and businesses will be able to connect with each other regardless of their location in a secure, web-based environment called “Inspire Wisconsin.”

That means more than 230,000 students and 16,000 educators now have access to the following resources statewide:

  • More than 1,600 career coaches
  • More than 1,200 company profiles
  • Nearly 5,800 work-based learning activities

“For the last few years, we have seen the positive impact Inspire has had at the local and regional level in engaging students and educators with area businesses,” said Tricia Braun, deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), which is providing funding to expand Inspire statewide. “This collaborative effort among the regions will build upon that success by providing students with even more resources and real-life experiences as they consider their career options. It will also help employers address future workforce need by connecting them with the possible future talent.”

Developed by Xello (formerly known as Career Cruising) , Inspire helps educate students, educators, parents, and job-seekers about the current and projected talent needs of local companies. It also provides an opportunity for employers and communities to enhance existing work-based learning and career-readiness programs by making it easier for students to engage in opportunities best aligned with the careers and career pathway areas of interest.

In many regions, Inspire is being utilized to increase engagement between businesses and students in several ways, including interactive messaging with local professionals, job shadowing, interviewing opportunities and internships.

“We’re so thrilled to be part of the collaboration and hard work that has culminated in creating this statewide network of employers, work-based learning opportunities and career coaches,” said Jeff Harris, president and co-founder of Xello. “By working together, the regional Inspire Wisconsin partners have created a powerful way to connect students across Wisconsin with invaluable insights and experiences that support their successful futures.”

For years, Wisconsin employers have expressed the need for ways to connect more seamlessly with their future workforce. Inspire addresses that need by aligning career exploration and occupational information with real-time data on local employers, their needs and the opportunities they offer young people to get experience in their industries.

At the same time, Inspire supports the development of robust career pathways and Academic and Career Planning (ACP) system that all Wisconsin public school districts implemented in 2017-18. Inspire integrates employer profile information, career-based learning opportunities, and access to volunteer online career coaches directly into the ACP system.

“The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the JPMorgan Chase New Skills for Youth grant support WEDC for continuing efforts to implement K-12 career readiness through the posted interactions and opportunities offered by Wisconsin employers in the Inspire platform,” said Sheila Briggs, assistant state superintendent of the DPI’s Division for Academic Excellence. “Inspire directly impacts increased capacity for schools and students to fully connect to available ACP opportunities.”

The Inspire programs managed by the state’s regional economic development organizations and their associated regional and countywide partners all will benefit from a significant increase in the number of employers, career coaches and experiential learning activities with the combined database.

The Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) was one of the first regions to implement Inspire, and Executive Director Paul Jadin said the collaboration will open up opportunities for students and businesses alike.

“MadREP is pleased to have its 70,000 students integrated with potentially thousands of businesses throughout the state through the Inspire platform,” Jadin said. “This will allow for significantly more workforce experiences and contacts that will lead to career path development benefitting both students and employers.”

Inspire is available to all Wisconsin public school students in grades 6 to 12 and to some technical colleges. The program is available to every student statewide, but not all districts have yet implemented it.

Employers can learn about and register for the Inspire deployment in their region and statewide at

What is Inspire?

  • Inspire is a cloud-based platform that enables collaboration among all community partners in preparing youth to transition from school success. Inspire integrates seamlessly into Career Cruising for grades 6 to 12.
  • Inspire connects education and industry with employer profiles, career coaches, work-based learning experiences, communication tools, local events, and social networking connections in a safe and secure platform.
  • Students engage with employer profiles to see how their pathways connect with businesses and organizations in their community. Students can ask questions of real working people in their community, learn about apprenticeship opportunities and see upcoming employer-hosted events.
  • Employers can connect with students and share information about the work they do and skills they need. They can also target students with profiles that match their needs, all on a secure platform that protects students’ privacy and safety.
  • Community members can serve as pre-screened mentors to offer real-time career advice and answer students’ questions about the real world of work.