On Tuesday, February 18, 2020, US Senator Gary Peters met machining, automotive, and graphic production students while touring the Career Tech Center in Muskegon. Peters is a strong advocate for career and technical education and is exploring new ways the federal government could be more supportive in preparing students for good-paying jobs. Peters said the federal government provides about $122 billion a year in direct financial assistance to students for post-high school education and less than $11 billion in funding to states to support career and technical education and workforce development.
Leaders from the health and manufacturing industries, colleges and Muskegon Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) met with Peters prior to his tour. MAISD staff highlighted the ways Muskegon Made Career Specialists are working closely with students and staff in local school districts to provide career exploration activities and experiences to better inform their future decision making. Staff also described the positive impact of literacy and mathematics coaches who work directly with teachers in classrooms to improve practices and student outcomes.
Superintendent John Severson discussed the success of the Muskegon Area Promise and touched on a new teacher preparation Early College program. He also mentioned an investment by the Community Foundation for Muskegon County that provides a $50 savings account to every kindergarten student.
MAISD leaders shared the importance of driving equity in education, thanked the Senator for the steady support for the federally-funded Head Start preschool program and explained the dire need for stronger funding for special education. College leaders shared concerns about the stagnant rate of the Pell Grant and explained its value to their most vulnerable students.
Business leaders talked about the importance of informing students about the variety of entry-level career opportunities in manufacturing and health sciences that can lead to tuition reimbursement opportunities. “We employ 4,400 individuals. We must continue to grow the interest in the health sciences,” explained Cheryl Goodell of Mercy Health.
Scott Erdman, the owner of Erdman Machine, applauded the work of the Career Tech Center and said he would like it to be available to even more people. Erdman said high school students and adults, who might be reluctant to attend college, are able to earn college credits at the Career Tech Center. Some then go on to earn two-year degrees in machine technology or engineering, while others may even become tool and die apprentices.
Peters talked about his bipartisan legislation that passed the Senate unanimously to expand apprenticeship opportunities for veterans. His “Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act” would increase veterans’ access to financial assistance they can use in connection with an apprenticeship program. In Michigan alone, only a few hundred of the 1,000 registered apprenticeships listed as active by the Department of Labor (DOL) have been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).