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Gratiot County students to get help in finding employment

The recently-created Central Michigan Talent Consortium that includes the St. Louis school district, has received $1.3 million from state government to build partnerships between business and education.

This was part of a $59 million pot of money earmarked for similar consortiums all over the state. Out of 80 applicants for the grants, nine were deemed worthy of the money.

It’s all part of the “Marshall Plan for Talent,” an attempt to address the talent gap issue and signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder last summer.

The consortium plans to spend its $1.3 million like so:

Create a “workforce citizenship curriculum” to emphasize workplace skills that the consortium’s business partners deem critical for them to find and retain talent ($349,330). Hire career navigators ($645,800). And buy equipment ($366,481).

Since the Gratiot-Isabella Regional Education Service District already has a relationship with several businesses and serves as a link to local school districts, it offered to take the lead in applying for the grant, said GIRESD Associate Superintendent Doug Bush.

“I made contact with as many area partners that I could,” Bush said via email. “These partners included the local district superintendents, business leaders, post-secondary institutions, Michigan Works, economic development agencies and a couple of others.”

“We came together to discuss the talent gap issue we had in our area and what we wanted to do to address it,” Bush continued. A “general idea of what the consortium had in mind to address the talent gap issue in the area” was created.

“We decided to move forward as a Central Michigan region including Gratiot and Isabella counties,” Bush said. “After inviting the consortium members to a planning meeting, we came up with strategies to help our area.”

The 38 consortium members include nine school districts (St. Louis, Alma, Ashley, Beal City, Breckenridge, Fulton, Ithaca, Mt. Pleasant and Shepherd), four post-secondary institutions (Alma College, CMU, Mid Michigan Community College and Merrill Institute) and nine businesses (Aircraft Precision Products of Ithaca, Powell Fabrication of St. Louis, Avalon & Tahoe of Alma, J. Ranck Electric of Mt. Pleasant, Merrill Technologies Group of Merrill, Welbilt-Delfield of Mt. Pleasant, MidMichigan Health of Alma, Michigan Masonic Home of Alma and Isabella Community Credit Union of Mt. Pleasant).

Avalon & Tahoe

Avalon & Tahoe pontoon boat factory of Alma is among the nine businesses in the consortium.

Whatever is developed through the grant funds is expected to be sustained after the grant funds are gone, Bush said. The funds are available for three years, and the consortium has to sustain the efforts for at least two years after.

In order to be approved for the grant, the consortium had to submit an implementation plan, Bush said. “All of this had to be based on regional data on high-demand fields and high-wage careers. So we did an initial labor market analysis. That determined what career pathways we were going to emphasize in out proposal.”

The consortium is allowed to hire three people to carry out this work, Bush said. One will be for “some specific curriculum development that is really important that I could give more detail on later,” he said. The other two will be career navigators. One will be responsible for Isabella County, and the other will work with Gratiot County.

“These folks will work on career awareness, career exploration, and career planning,” Bush said. “Their role is to help students with career development in support of the local counselors who can’t give this area enough attention due to crisis intervention, scheduling, graduation requirements, testing and the many other things they do.”

How does this benefit St. Louis specifically? Bush submitted the following points.

  • St. Louis students will receive the Workplace Citizenship skills and be able to use documentation of these skills to help gain employment. (The consortium employers and some additional ones have committed to give preference to those that can demonstrate competency of these skills.)
  • St. Louis employers will have higher quality employees.
  • St. Louis students will receive comprehensive career awareness, exploration and planning and support with navigating the process from school to work, including post-secondary.
  • St. Louis teachers will have additional opportunities for our “Educator to Industry Tours.”
  • St. Louis teachers will be able to participate in a teacher externship program.
  • St. Louis students in the welding, machine trades and health care programs will have new industry standard equipment in their programs.
  • St. Louis students will be able to participate, at no cost, in a skilled trades summer camp.

“I will let the dust settle before letting you know how we are going to proceed,” Doug Bush told St. Louis Schools Superintendent Kristi Teall via email. “We need to know how they are going to distribute funds, when, etc.  So we will definitely have more work to do, but this is work we could not have done without these funds. I will keep you posted and we will eventually be asking for support in implementation!”

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