2013-09-19 / Views

Technical education for the future of our students

Editor’s note: This submission represents the personal opinions of the author and should not be used to characterize the opinions of the Pioneer Tribune.

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What kind of training will I need to get a good paying job?

Students are now asking this question before spending thousands of dollars and years of training pursuing careers with questionable job prospects. While some careers still require traditional four-year bachelor degrees, 18 of the 20 fastest growing occupations within the next decade will require Career and Technical Education. In addition, colleges are finding an increase in the number of people with bachelor degrees who cannot find work and are returning to college to get technical training for careers with excellent job prospects.

Where is CTE available?

Training begins with courses available to high school students at career and technical education centers like the Delta-Schoolcraft Intermediate School District CTE centers in Escanaba and Manistique. After graduation, students can continue their training at colleges, technical training schools, apprenticeship programs, on-the-job training positions, and the military.

What does CTE have to offer?

The answer is, plenty. Students are exposed to different technical career possibilities they wouldn’t have been exposed to in a traditional classroom, and technical education includes hands-on training as well as work experience. CTE helps meet the needs of businesses and industry who struggle to find highly skilled workers like precision machinists, certified welders, accountants, and highly skilled technicians,” he said.

Programs also teach practical skills like those needed to work on personal vehicles, fix home computers, and provide CPR/first aid. Courses at the post-secondary level are usually shorter in length, with a certificate or degree that can usually be completed in a year or two.

What about jobs?

According to the 2012 – 2017 U.P. Manufacturing Workforce and Skills Data Collection Results, central U.P. employers project 800 manufacturing job openings within the next 3-5 years, with half of those in the assembler/production and welding fields. For those willing to consider employment outside Upper Michigan, data cites 246,000 jobs open in manufacturing, and 550,000 jobs open in the trade, transportation and utilities sector.

Marinette Marine is one of the region’s largest employers with 1,400 employees, and 600 jobs added in the past two years. Having just completed a $74 million shipyard expansion, “the future of MMC is very promising” MMC President and CEO Chuck Goddard said. With several years of contracted work ahead, the company will be hiring both entry-level and experienced workers in the technical trades. MMC has partnered with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College to build an onsite training facility to further enhance the skills of new and current employees, and is working with local high schools to align vocational technical classes to industry standards. MMC is planning to stabilize its workforce and replace workers lost through attrition with local graduates.

In the health care industry, registered nurses top the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives list of Michigan’s Hot 50 Careers with High Demand and High Wages. Job outlook for registered nurses in Michigan is expecting a 20 percent job growth through 2018, with over 3,000 projected job openings and average hourly wage of $30.82.

Other benefits of technical training.

Local school districts recognize that math is an integral part of each ISD CTE program, so many districts have elected to allow students to fulfill the fourth year of math required for graduation by attending a CTE class. By providing a hands-on way to learn math, it reaches many students who find it difficult to grasp the concepts through a traditional math class.

What kind of training is available?

Delta-Schoolcraft ISD offers programs in accounting, welding, automotive technology, computer technology, engineering, health occupations, construction, and other areas. Students learn from textbooks, hands-on training, and work experience, and those who successfully complete two years of training earn advanced placement college credits.

Does CTE provide skills so students don’t need to attend college?

While employers agree that high school adequately prepares workers for some entry level positions, additional training helps students be “well prepared.” CTE programs enable students to begin their training and experience while attending high school, and although some students are prepared to go directly into the workforce, most continue training in tech schools, apprenticeships and on-the-job programs. For those who go on to college, most do better than average when they build on the career pathway they started at a CTE center.

Partners in Career and Technical Education.

According to ISD job placement coordinator, Tim Zimmerman, local employers recognize the importance of work based learning. They partner with CTE instructors and provide training for over 50 students at the worksite. About half of the students get paid for their work at the sites. For many students, work based learning leads to career positions with companies like VanAire, Marble Arms, Stewart Manufacturing and Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital.

Career and technical education opportunities create a win-win situation for both employers and students. Bill VanDeVusse, VanAire CEO, said their company helps with the technical training of several students each year, and many of their present employees started their training in the I.S.D. program.

“Brandon Couillard, our most recent I.S.D. technical training student, arrived ready to apply his machining skills in our work environment, and like other I.S.D. students, he is doing an excellent job. In turn, we are able to provide him with the opportunity to demonstrate his skills in real world applications particular to VanAire production. We have employed many students as precision machinists, and some have advanced into other positions including quality assurance. It continues to be a good partnership for both VanAire and technical education students.”

Fred Culvahouse received two years of training in the I.S.D. machining program where he learned manual and computer numerically controlled machining.

“In the past two years, I’ve learned how to design, cut and fabricate products out of metal using knee and CNC mills, lathes, and other machinery in a simulated machine shop work environment,” he said. “I plan to continue my precision machining education at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, and after getting industry experience, I plan to own my own shop. The I.S.D. program showed me how vital machining is to our economy, and the positive career outlook for the industry.”

Locally, Engineered Machine Products is a global leader in engineering, manufacturing, research and development. Since 1991, EMP has fostered the opportunity for 70-plus I.S.D. students to participate in the work experience program – helping to build core technical skills while earning an attractive hourly wage. Many of these students were fortunate to join EMP on a full-time basis in various departments across the organization, including engineering and management positions.

According to Paul Harvey, EMP’s director of new business development, “EMP has been, and will continue to be, a strong advocate for building core skills through technical education.”

In a recent visit to the Delta- Schoolcraft I.S.D., U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek (MI-01) explained his efforts in working with local, state, and federal officials to try to improve CTE education in Northern Michigan. “Vocational education is one of my top priorities and I’ve been helping lead the fight in Congress to make sure students get the education and training they need to land good-paying jobs in our area.”

What can this mean for students?

A lot! It can mean opportunity, excitement, success, and most importantly, it can mean a solid future and a fulfilling career. In this highly technical world, great career opportunities await workers who have a technical education background.

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For more information regarding this article, contact Cathy Knight, ISD counselor, at 786-9300, ext. 343.

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