ISD board learns of career technical education opportunities

MANISTEE — Giving students educational options to prepare for future careers is what school districts everywhere are looking to accomplish in today’s world.

Wexford-Misaukee Career Technical Center director Dave Cox makes a point to Manistee ISD superintendent Jeff Jennette and his board this week when he gave a report on local students taking classes at their center. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate)

Wexford-Misaukee Career Technical Center director Dave Cox makes a point to Manistee ISD superintendent Jeff Jennette and his board this week when he gave a report on local students taking classes at their center. (Ken Grabowski/News Advocate)

This week Wexford-Missaukee Career Technical Education director Dave Cox visited the Manistee Intermediate School District Board of Education to update them on classes students from Manistee County are taking at their center.

Manistee ISD superintendent Jeff Jennette said Cox also has been working on new partnerships for educational opportunities in this area beyond those offered at the Wexford-Misaukee Career Tech Center.

“Really as of right now with the exception of work based learning or co-op opportunities there really isn’t any caree tech opportunities in the county,” said Jennette. “At the MCOE 2020, three or four years ago, we did a survey of the county to talk about possible career tech millage in Manistee County and there was a lot of support for it.”

Jennette said the one thing people need to remember is the bulk of the funding for the programs at the Wexford-Missaukee Career Tech Center is based on money.

“There is a 2.7 mill millage in place for the Wexford-Missaukee Career Tech Center that supports that beautiful building and programs,” said Jennette.

Cox said he is confident that there is a way that more opportunities can be brought to Manistee County.

“I am confident that something can be done and I told Jeff I would help anyway that I can,” said Cox. “Looking back at our millage, it wasn’t approved by the districts that made it successful and it was driven by business manufacturing and industry.”

The millage was not pushed by the local districts and Cox said that was something to keep in mind.

“I feel in a few more years that window is really open as governors across the country are supporting it,” said Cox.

Jennette pointed out that now legislators are taking a very favorable approach to career tech education opportunities.

“There is a ton of money being put out right now into career tech centers and it really is the haves and have nots,” said Jennette. “This year Dave received grants for over $50,000 and $70,000 for programs. What is unfortunate that is because he has a career tech center and Manistee doesn’t, so none of that money came out way.”

Cox said there has been career tech programs in this area in the past, but they have all faded away over time.

“This is the third year since we began entertaining out-of-district students (currently Bear Lake and Kaleva Norman Dickson attend classes), so how it works today is we have five districts coming now as we added Grayling,  Roscommon and Houghton Lake,” said Cox. “We feel that the classes we offer are doing some good and we can benefit the students. When they knock on the door we let them in if we have room.”

The way the class selection works, according to Cox, is their local districts have until the first Monday in May to select their classes. There are only so many slots available so that gives them the first opportunity. After that, it gets open to everyone.

“This was the first time that some of the local students over there did not get their first choice in health care classes, because it is crazy big over there,” he said.

Cox said at the end of 2016-17 school year they had 633 students at the Wexford-Missaukee Career Tech Center with Bear Lake sending over 21 students and KND 17 students.

Jennette said the addition of other schools this coming year, makes it more difficult for Bear Lake and KND students to get their top choices in classes.

“It used to be there was Grayling, Bear Lake and Brethren, from outside the district but this year there are two more schools to pull out of the hat,” said Jennette. “We do know that not everyone is going into the program they sign up for their first choice. Not everyone who signs up for automotive is going to be a mechanic, so we teach them soft skills and see if they can adapt that into something else.”

Cox said that as of Sept. 5 the enrollment this year at the Wexford Missaukee Career Tech Center is 789, which shows of the popularity of program. He said the most popular ones are computers, electronics technology, Introduction to health care, and metal fabrication.

“One thing we put in was if a Brethren or Bear Lake student gets in for two years they have guaranteed spots in the programs they want the second year,” said Cox.

Cox said he spoke with the West Shore ESD’s Career Tech director Lynda Matson and she said they have waiting lists for criminal justice, welding automotive and health care.

“You need to have caps on class levels because for some of them like welding there are safety concerns,” said Cox.

He said there is no barrier they can’t overcome in the classes they offer as long as the funding is present for it.

Jennette said one option is to find existing classroom space and find companies like the casino, the automotive repair industry and others to partner with them to open learning opportunities.

“That is an opportunity that could exist out there and we would make sure it is all legal,” said Jennette. “Our hope is someone from the community will show an interest and call us.”

Cox said those type of programs could have only four or five students at a time, but they do work if done correctly. He gave the example of the building trades class.

“Every vendor that came in and worked with us on our house hired some of the students because they have a need,” said Cox. “We have like 15 seniors that graduated who are working in the field they took classes in.”

Jennette said in the absence of a millage and a career tech center, working with area business would still cost a tuition, but it might make it easier to eliminate the travel and transportation costs by doing it in town.

However, he said the ultimate goal is getting students the educational opportunities that could lead to a career.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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