ADRIAN — Officials in charge of economic development in Lenawee County are working with four-year colleges and K–12 teachers to better train people for jobs in the area. The effort is being led by the Align Lenawee Talent Consortium. Align is the part of Lenawee Now that works on workforce development. Lenawee Now is the county’s organization for economic development. A news release said that Lenawee Now started Align in 2014 to help with talent issues, which have a big effect on the economic growth of a region.
Tim Robinson, the interim executive director of Lenawee Now, said in the release, “Talent is the number one thing companies look for when they decide to move to a new area.” “Organizations will look elsewhere if they don’t see a good workforce development system in place that will give them a talent for years to come.” Adrian College and Siena Heights University used to compete with each other for students, so they joined forces to help solve a problem that most county employers were having.
They did this by creating several certifications, which were different from their usual practice of mostly offering degree programs. Siena Heights University President Sister Peg Albert said, “Siena Heights University is thrilled to be working with Align Lenawee and Adrian College.” “Together, we can make a difference in people’s lives by advancing their careers and helping our community grow,” Albert said that the partnership will help build a talent pool that will help solve problems in almost every industry in the county and help strengthen the local workforce.
The president of Adrian College, Jeffrey Docking, said, “These certificates will give students a way to get high-paying jobs in high-demand fields with the flexibility that our students and professionals need.” “We’re grateful to everyone who worked on the certificate program together and made it possible for our businesses to grow and do well.”
The goal of the project was to help local businesses grow and do well. So, the Align team asked local business owners, teachers from the Lenawee Intermediate School District Tech Center, and other K–12 teachers from all over the county to work together to make programs that expose middle and high school students to high-demand jobs and help them build skills in those areas.
“This “ladder” approach starts in middle school, continues through high school, and ends with an adult certification,” said Randy Yagiela, director of the Align Lenawee Talent Consortium. “This lets recent graduates get jobs sooner than they would if they got a four-year degree.” Yagiela talks about a three-step talent pipeline ladder that was made for accounting, applied computing, cybersecurity, digital marketing, early childhood education, entrepreneurship, future teachers, health care, IT/data management, project management, and web development.
There could be more job fields added. LISD Superintendent Mark Haag said, “Ideally, we’d like to start introducing our young people to some of these hot job areas because they’re all in areas with high demand, high pay, and high skill.” “Some of our best students get bored, and I think these lessons if you really look at them, give you a chance to add some new things to the classroom that might spark a student who hasn’t been sparked before.
with the help of several school staff members, the Align team has found the state teaching standards that apply to the newly built curriculum at the middle school and high school levels. This will make it easier for teachers to use the curriculum while still meeting their teaching goals. Several schools and situations tried out the curriculum to help make it better.
The project management curriculum was tested at the LISD Middle College, the Lenawee Christian School, an LISD summer camp, and the Springbrook Middle School. Nicole Holden, a teacher at Springbrook Middle School, said, “I really like what the subject matter expert was able to put together in terms of materials.” “It was great that she put together the lessons that were the basis for what we did and then let me put my own spin on things because I knew my students.”
Holden would tell other teachers to use the materials made by these groups of teachers working together. “Everyone says it takes a village,” she said. “This is a great way for us all to work together to make sure our students know they are part of our community, that they matter, and that their growth matters.” These lessons were made possible by a grant from the Marshall Plan Talent Fund that the state of Michigan gave to the LISD and was run by Align. “I think I can speak for all of our districts when I say that getting the Marshall Plan grant here in Lenawee County was very exciting,” Haag said.
“We think we’re probably the only ones in the state who do this kind of work.” About 20% of all jobs in the county are open at ProMedica’s Charles and Virginia Hickman Hospital in Adrian. So, when Dr. Julie Yaroch, the head of the hospital, heard about the programs for kids, she was very happy. She said, “If we can work with the schools and they can find students who might be interested in what we do, and if we can make those connections earlier on, that’s a win for both of us.”
Yaroch said, “It doesn’t take long to get into the health care field.” “There are many short-term programs that can help you get the education, certificate, or license you need. After you finish high school, it only takes another 12 weeks to become a phlebotomist. And in health care, you might not end up doing the same job you started with. There are many chances to improve.” Align’s manager, Sheila Blair, said that these programs do not make students less likely to go to college.
“The goal of the certification development is to get people into the workforce faster after high school so they can figure out what they want to do and then go to college to move up,” she said. “Student loan debt is putting a lot of pressure on the economy right now. Jennifer Haeussler, a professor at Siena Heights University and an expert in early childhood development, said, “It’s crazy.”
“Not everyone needs to go to college. It’s fine to go to a technical school or get a job and learn on the job.” Haeussler said that students’ brains change when they learn about careers when they are young. “If we start early, in middle school, to look at different career options, it helps students realize that their skills and interests can be turned into a job, and it helps them get focused,” she said.
Blair said that the adult certification programs were already up and running at AC and SHU and that the middle and high school curriculum would be rolled out to teachers and districts this fall through several events for teachers, counselors, principals, and superintendents. On October 4, the first event will be for middle school teachers.
She said, “We’re very excited about this rollout, and we want to make it fun and easy for teachers to use these materials in their classes.” “We’re going to ask our experts in the field to work directly with teachers to make using the lessons as easy and natural as possible,” Blair said that the new certifications made possible by the Marshall Plan are just one part of the Lenawee County Workforce Development System, which also includes Align’s new Learning Management System,
an online training solution that will be launched later this summer along with K-12 schools, the Tech Center, the Southern Michigan Center for Science and Industry (SMCSI) in Hudson, and AC and SHU. Align is also bringing together training partners and certification providers for businesses in the area so that they can train their employees and leaders. Yagiela said, “Align’s design team and task force are making progress on making a community-wide center for workforce development.” The center would be a place for adults to learn and Align hopes to offer best-in-class solutions for developing talent in all fields there.
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