Building the Future: the CTE movement

In part two of our series, ‘Building the Future,’ we look more in depth at how Career and Technical Education is pointing high school students to a faster career path.

Career tech programs to help get high schoolers into the workforce are catching on in the U.P., but what happens when there is a lack of interest?

Whether it’s called Vocational Education or CTE, it’s a way young people can get on a career track faster. There’s a major effort in Upper Michigan to provide students for programs, and to create more programs for students.

Many companies across the U.P. are looking to hire. Jon Harry, the Vice President of Organizational Excellence at Systems Control, said, “Our company – Systems Control – is located in Iron Mountain. This year, we expect to hire about 100 employees; we’ve already hired upwards of 80.”

But they’re not looking for the typical four year degrees, like many people think. “A good, vocational training background is probably our number one need in terms of – [if] you look at the volume of people we’re going to hire, that’s where it’s at,” said Harry.

A member on the Michigan Works Board of Educators, Jerry Doucette said, “Even coming out of schools, we find students don’t have the basic skills. So we’re going into high schools now, so we can train them as carpenters, as mechanics, as welders.”

Brian Sarvello, the Career and Technical Education Director at the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency, said, “We literally have hundreds of thousands of jobs available in this country, [and] tens of thousands of jobs alone in Michigan that are involved with skilled trades. And yet, we’ve got a decreasing number of students pursuing those degrees.”

U.P. lawmakers have been and remain supportive of the effort to see more young people in the trades. Sarvello said, “You know, one of the unique things about living in the Upper Peninsula is the fact that we have this sense of community across this broad geographic area. I can’t compliment our legislators enough. They’ve been fantastic in their support of Career and Technical Education.”

Another positive step in the CTE movement is the Marquette-Alger Technical Middle College, a program that allows high school students to essentially get a free college education, in exchange for their commitment to pursue a vocational career path. “I think the establishment of the Marquette-Alger Technical Middle College is proof that people support this mission and see the need to provide an incentive for more students to move into Career and Technical Education,” said Sarvello.

Harry commented, “The U.P. is, I think known for its work ethic. We make products, we mine, we make paper, we manufacture products so, it’s kind of part of our heritage. We create value from manufacturing, mining, those kind of industries so, for us, it’s part of who we are, it’s part of our fabric.”

Stay tuned to ‘Building the Future’ on Local 3 News tomorrow, where we’ll look into one CTE program that gives college students an opportunity to build their future in the trades.

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