(As seen on WZZM TV 13) The state is providing funds to enhance work readiness training for students in 12 Muskegon school districts.
Muskegon ISD and Saginaw ISD are leading dozens of districts and business partners as one of nine talent consortiums around the state that have been awarded first-round funding from the state’s $100-million, five-year Marshall Plan, approved in June to better prepare students for jobs in a 21st-century market.
The nine consortiums, representing 260 entities, have received $15 million in grants from the $59 million allocated for consortiums.
Using Muskegon ISD’s Michigan Made work-readiness program for fourth- through 12th-grade students as a template, this consortium will provide students in both counties with training focusing on career pathways in the manufacturing, construction, automotive, IT and health care fields.
The goal is to give students a “flavor” of what these industries entail and help them get a better idea of their interests early-on, according to Randy Lindquist, Muskegon ISD associate superintendent for academic services.
Lindquist said the program also will have components focusing on competency-based education, and physical and mental wellness.
The program will offer work-based learning experiences, mentoring and coaching, needed certifications, project-based learning and an understanding of soft skills.
Lindquist said many manufacturers, for example, can teach young workers how to operate machinery but are looking for those who can problem solve and think critically.
“We hear that from businesses quite often,” Lindquist said.
Besides Muskegon school districts, Muskegon Community College is involved, as well as Muskegon-area businesses including Muskegon Tool, Mercy Health, Erdman Machine Co. and Michigan CAT.
Lindquist said many of the opportunities through this program may lead to jobs for the students, which could lead to other perks in some companies, such as tuition reimbursement.
He said the plan is to use the $850,000 available to Muskegon County to hire three new career specialists, for a total of six, to focus on the program and connect students with appropriate opportunities.
Lindquist said Muskegon and Saginaw counties are similar sizes with similar demographics, and officials in Saginaw were interested in the Michigan Made program, so it made sense to partner and share resources.
The Marshall Plan rules state intermediate school districts, as well as individual schools districts, may apply for an amount of funding based on the number of students represented, and smaller organizations may partner to receive more funding.
John Helmholdt, executive director of communications and external affairs for Grand Rapids Public Schools, confirmed the district was listed in two separate applications — individually and through Kent ISD — and both applications were denied. The Marshall Plan rules state applying in more than one consortium is allowed but discouraged.
Officials from GRPS and Kent ISD could not be reached for additional comment.
Marshall Plan documents say the grants are scored based on quality of the talent consortium, clarity and innovativeness of the program summary, the need for the funds and an explanation of the goals, objectives and measures of the program.
Helmholdt confirmed the district plans to apply for the next round of funding.
The next and final disbursements are scheduled for May and August, with several preceding application preparation deadlines.
Of the $59 million available for grants, $28 million is allocated for expanded curricula, $18.5 million for new equipment and $10.5 million to hire 150 “career navigators.”
The rest of the Marshall Plan’s funds include $25.5 million in scholarships for low-income students to pursue degrees or credentials in high-demand, high-wage careers; $7.5 million for state talent promotion and attraction campaigns; and $4 million to replicate existing in-state successful programs.
The plan notes the state’s projection of more than 811,000 career openings in the focus areas through 2024, each with an average salary of over $60,000 per year and a total earnings potential of $49.1 billion.
“We're seeing a lot of jobs in the future that are going to be unfilled if we don't find a way to fill that talent gap with students coming out of school,” Lindquist said.