Northern Michigan high-school students recently took advantage of events created by key players in the skilled-trades movement — commonly referred to as professional trades.
Driven by National Manufacturing Day, a Community College Skilled Trades Equipment Program grant to provide Michigan community colleges funding to help deliver educational programs in high-wage, high-skill and high-demand occupations, Kirtland Community College, the Michigan WORKS!, area businesses and high schools partnered to showcase the paths available to students.
More than 300 students attended three separate events: Gaylord High School students toured the three manufacturers in Grayling, IMM, Inc., Air Way Automation, and Springs Window Fashions; West Branch’s Balsm Welding hosted Ogemaw Heights High School students; and Mio High School hosted a daylong STEM event.
“Governor Snyder encouraged business and industry to plan at least one tour for Manufacturing Day,” said Mandi Chasey, director of business and economic services for Ogemaw County Michigan Works!. “That’s why I invited Kirtland Community College to partner with us. We want students to get excited about the trades so critical skill gaps can be addressed.”
There were 250 students at the STEM event, organized by the Mio High School math department. More than two dozen students visited Balsm Welding in West Branch.
“I think it allowed them to visit an actual welding and fab shop and see what it looks like outside of the high school classroom,” Kyle Sisco, machine tools instructor at OHHS, said. “It was beneficial and hope it is something we can do in the future.”
Mark Hickey, Balsm Welding owner could relate to the 30 students visiting his shop.
“I was a co-op kid in high school,” Hickey said. “I see me in them and it is really important to get the exposure and expand their minds while still in high school to see what is out there and the opportunities available to them. I tried to give them an overview of how important welding is and where the applications are in today’s workforce. I hope to grab some of those kids out of there when they finish high school.”
Kirtland’s director of community development, Erine Adams, added, “There is nothing more real life than hearing from people in the industry doing this work every day. [Balsm] did a fabulous job showcasing their work and tools they used.”
Cesalee Kuffel, Kirtland admissions coordinator, was at the Mio event. “It was a STEM day created by the math department, Jay Jackson, Carla Sterly and Kim Clark,” Kuffle said. “They wanted students to have a chance to be exposed to careers that were available in the STEM field. We had simulators set up for the police academy, auto and mechatronics.”
Organizers said students that see potential job opportunities are more likely to complete their program.
“We want them to see what their course work can lead to — give them a goal, a vision,” Kirtland’s dean of occupational programs, Laura Percival, said.