WHAT HAS YOUR attention today? Panera Bread and Texas Roadhouse going up out in Marquette Township? The onset of the new Social District about to be launched in downtown Marquette? A new hotel on the lakefront?
My guess is you’re probably not thinking a lot about the Career Technical Education program coming out of the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (MARESA). Am I right? Well… hopefully, that’s about to change.
As another school year comes to a close, many graduating seniors are still looking around, trying to figure out their next move. Some have their college plans all set while many others are trying to identify a path that doesn’t include four more years of school and six figures of debt.
And that’s where the CTE program comes in. It would take many more words than you have the time to read to tell you everything about this program, but I’ll try to hit the high points.
It was about 10 years ago when a local guy, recently retired and looking for something to keep himself out of trouble, gathered a couple like-minded associates and got involved with MARESA’s curriculum of skills education and ramped it up to the invaluable program it is today.
That local guy is Stu Bradley, seen above running a recent meeting of the CTE Committee. He’s already made his mark around town as a businessman, city leader, community activist and volunteer. He could have just planted a garden or started a stamp collection, or whatever it is retired folks do these days, but he saw an opportunity… a need really, and stepped back into the fray.
Erich Ziegler, Director of the CTE program says this about Stu… “His service has far-reaching results, as we continue to work together on opportunities for our students in Career and Technical Education. I enjoy and appreciate his shared advocacy for our students, our schools, and our communities. A sincere thank you to Stu, for all that he has done, and continues to do.”
He’ll modestly credit others, like Brian Sarvello and Tony Retaskie, who were on the ground floor with him, but make no mistake, Stu is the straw that stirs the drink. As he’s about to become an octogenarian he says he’s ready to pass the straw, which is okay, because he’s done such a good job of providing direction to the CTE program that it will surely continue without missing a beat.
So, exactly what is the Career Technical Education program? According to Stu, “We’re a voice for the kids (40-60%) that should be looking for a hands-on type degree/career: Auto Tech, Welding, HVAC, Lab Tech, Cybersecurity, etc. Since our committee was formed, the percentage of high school kids in Marquette and Alger counties taking Career Technical Education (CTE) classes has gone from 37% to about 60%. The number of HS students ‘doing’ an internship their senior year has doubled.”
More than just a “voice,” the CTE program has brought together a number of area stakeholders including both employers and potential employees. The CTE Committee, representing Marquette and Alger counties, is a group of more than 50 volunteers that represent 35 different organizations whose main focus is to help high school students make the best possible career decisions.
Why do I hope you find this as interesting as a new craft brewery or a salamander migration? Because I believe, and many would agree, giving the next generation a path to economic and social success is one of the most efficient and effective things we can do to help shape our society’s future.
Why do young adults flounder? Why do they abuse drugs and alcohol and fall back on a life of crime or dependency? There are many reasons why, but a lack of purpose and steady income surely contribute. CTE is a tangible, measurable program that addresses some of the main issues facing our youth today. Even if you don’t have a young person in your sphere, you benefit from the results of a program that invigorates a good part of an entire generation.
The success of the undertaking is due to a collaborative effort of independent agencies, businesses, and industries, all operating under the CTE umbrella, each with a different focus. One example would be the UP Construction Council, represented by Executive Director Mike Smith.
Mike heads up the Construction Connect UP Program, which, according to him, “is designed to serve as an effective transition from school to work by giving qualified high school seniors an outstanding academic education while instilling in them an understanding of the world of the work and the skills necessary for competing in the union construction industry.”
With this, high school seniors can apply for their EARN($) and LEARN PROGRAM, where they split time between the classroom and on-the-job training, and get paid!
Amy Berglund, Director of Business Initiatives at InvestUP, coordinates a related internship program, targeted primarily at those already in college. “Our mission is for higher education students in the Upper Peninsula, who wish to remain in the UP following graduation, to learn where those employment opportunities exist so they may stay. More practically, students often gain a greater understanding of how what they are learning in the classroom transfers to the workplace and they can learn how to deploy skills learned in class into everyday workplace activities. More than half of our internships lead to a full-time employment offer from the host employers.”
Our educational system is going through a paradigm shift of sorts, and not a moment too soon. Not all kids need a traditional college education, and many of our schools are reacting to that fact and embracing the need for skills training. Bradley says our 11 area high schools as well as Northern Michigan University are all partners in the program’s mission.
Are you still with me? Do you know a high schooler who could benefit from Career Technical Education? I’ve just scraped the surface on all the program has to offer. If you’re interested, visit the CTE website at maresacte.org. All the info, including how to get involved in the program, can be found there.
All right. A lot of words, and none of them about another project financed with brownfield money or a book banning at the library. And we all survived.