Career tech opportunities on the rise for area students

MANISTEE — One of the best kept secrets in Manistee County is the fact that students at all the area schools have a great deal of access to career tech class offerings.

The Wexford Missaukee Career Tech Education Center and the West Shore ESD Career Tech Center are the two places where Manistee area high school students get the opportunity to take career tech education classes.

The Wexford Missaukee Career Tech Education Center and the West Shore ESD Career Tech Center are the two places where Manistee area high school students get the opportunity to take career tech education classes.

Many counties have career tech centers at which students can take classes, but since Manistee County does not have one there is the misconception that nothing is offered in this area. According to Launch Manistee program director Mary Ann Behm that isn’t the case.

“What we are hoping to do is reach out to let our area businesses and the community know that we do have students in these programs at different career tech centers,” said Behm.

The centers they utilize are the West Shore Educational Service District career tech center classes at West Shore Community College and the Wexford Missaukee Career Tech Center in Cadillac.

“Right now students from Manistee Area Public, Manistee Catholic Central and Onekama schools utilize the West Shore ESD classes, while Brethren and Bear Lake students attend the Wexford Missaukee Career Tech Center,” said Behm.

Students at Bear Lake and Brethren schools send 34 students daily to the Wexford Missaukee Career Tech Center. They have the opportunity to take classes in construction technology, agri-science, automotive technology, business management administration, CNET, career skills, digital media production, engineering technology, health science careers, heavy equipment mechanics, hospitality entrepreneurship, introduction to health care, metal fabrication/welding, power sports and equipment and public safety.

The most popular classes are automotive technology and metal fabrication/welding with six local students in each class.

Onekama, Manistee Catholic Central and Manistee Area Public send 79 students to the West Shore ESD program. They take classes in ag-science, allied health, automotive, construction, criminal justice, culinary, digital media, graphic arts, IT networking, marketing, mechatronics, welding and Educator Academy.

At that location the popular classes are Allied Health (23 students), Construction (nine students) and welding (seven students).

West Shore ESD Career Tech Education principal Lynda Matson said something people also don’t realize is students are getting more than just the educational information from the career tech education classes (CTE).

“All our CTE programs have at least one industry recognized certification tied to their program,” said Matson. “Each certification was suggested by our local advisory board members and will help students that want to go straight into the workforce as well as provide resume support.”

Matson some examples of certification are things like National Automotive Technician Education Foundation (NATEF)  for automotive, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for allied health and ServSafe for Culinary Arts to name just a few of many.

“We are also building a program called Skills for Success that ties our curriculum to the soft skills that employers say they want in employees,” said Matson. “With the help of local employers we developed seven key categories and some include collaboration and global thinking, technology literacy, and personal accountability. Students that meet expectations in these categories will receive a certification that they can provide to employers in order to demonstrate their aptitude in each area.”

Behm said right now the big thing they are doing is educating the local public, businesses and industry that these classes are being offered and that there are students coming out who would be job ready.

Another thing that Behm said they want the public to know is each of the centers have a work based learning coordinator who works with area businesses on providing job shadowing experiences, work based learning and internships.

“Our local employers can reach out to those coordinators if they have a specific interest,” said Behm. “For example if you are a restaurant and are looking for culinary employees you could reach out to West Shore ESD and see if there are people in that program who are looking for summer or full-time positions. We have construction programs, welding, automotive or those type of areas.”

At the West Shore ESD the work based learning coordinator is Shelby Hughes who can be reached at or by calling (231) 843-5707. At Wexford Missaukee that person is LeAnne Bush, who can be reached at or by calling (231) 876-2214.

“We have a full time yearround work based learning coordinator that is always out and meeting with employers, said WMISD CTE director Dave Cox. “She also is a Michigan Works! employee which is a huge asset. We also host an employer panel in the spring and Career Expo at our center that brings in just about every employer in the area to meet face-to-face with students.”

Behm said the interest in these programs came up in a  Launch Manistee and employer panel partner meeting.

“We wanted to make sure we are bridging that gap with employers and that linkage to students,” said Behm. “We want employers to understand there are programs in existence where you could reach out for potential employees. Just because we don’t have a career tech center in Manistee County there seems to be some misinformation that we don’t have students going into these fields and that isn’t true.”


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

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