J. Kruse Education Center

A concept drawing shows the future Experience Center of the J. Kruse Education Center south of Auburn. Sixteen career pathways will be represented through hands-on experiences housed inside shipping containers in a 65,000-square-foot wing of Kruse Plaza.

AUBURN — The J. Kruse Education Center will be a “radical and transformational education center,” founder John Kruse says.

Kruse and executive director Matt Toth revealed their vision for the center Thursday evening at Kruse Plaza south of Auburn, the center’s home base.

The center will feature a 65,000-square-foot Experience Center in the south one-third of Kruse Plaza, a former museum.

It will provide an “unparalleled, immersive educational experience for, specifically, K-12 students and transitioning veterans” to discover possible careers, Toth said.

Inside the Experience Center, students can choose from 16 career pathways, each with a PODS, or Personal Opportunity for Developing Skills.

Students will begin with a discovery maze in which they choose from six doors that guide them to career options.

A light-and-sound effects show will follow before students move to their chosen PODS, which will be created in shipping containers that are portable and expandable.

Students can spend 1-4 hours in the experience center, visiting one or more PODS, then move to an “inspiration studio” where career coaches will be available.

“Any job that you will think of will fit under those 16 career pathways” Toth said. Students will be introduced to tens of thousands of careers “that kids just don’t know about,” he added.

“We trust them to discover and explore” the careers they choose to investigate, Toth said.

“We hope to have active professionals on site on a regular basis,” representing different careers, he said.

The Experience Center will accommodate up to 85 students at a time. It would welcome visiting school groups Monday through Friday and be open to the public on evening and weekends.

The center’s target market is 1.5 million students within a two-hour travel radius, Kruse said.

“Some people think we have wild goals,” Kruse added. He envisions reaching 1 million students in 10 years.

Kruse said he has spent a decade planning for the center, meeting with educators, business leaders and policy makers around the nation and world.

In the field of career path development, “No one is doing, really, what we’re doing. … We are individualized and personalized,” Kruse said.

“We’re not a school. We’re here to help the school, to help motivate the student,” he said. “This is a nonprofit. There is no benefit other than the satisfaction of helping individuals.”

In contrast to much of the education system, “Our core value … is that of the individual. It’s a very simple, but very powerful core value,” Kruse said.

The Experience Center is not a museum or amusement park, he noted.

“You’re here because a career path is a very serious thing … although it will be fun,” he said.

The need for career path education is clear because 80% of people with college degrees are not working in their degree fields, Toth said.

The average student gets only 38 minutes per year with a guidance counselor, he added.

“Individuals are now in areas where they’re not fulfilled,” Toth said. “We have a workforce starving for talent. We don’t have people in the right places. … Our mission is to assist individuals as they discover their God-given talents and passions, as we guide them toward a specific career path”

The center will launch a capital campaign in the months ahead to build the Experience Center, Kruse said. He did not offer a timetable for completion.

“We know how we’re going to pay for this and how it’s going to cash-flow,” he said.

The J. Kruse Education Center already is operating its Career Coaching Academy at Kruse Plaza, working with clients from several states and around the world, Kruse said.

“We believe we have developed what will quickly become the premier coaching academy in America,” he said.

The academy is unique in coaching ages 13-15, and one of very few serving ages 16-17, Kruse said.

The average age of its coaching clients is 24, with clients in their 30s, 40s and 50s changing their career paths and finding fulfillment, he said.

Until now having a career coach has been a luxury reserved for the upper class, Kruse said, adding, “Our vision and goal is to bring that to everybody in an affordable manner.”

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