Tribe partners with college for career training


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A tribe and college in the region have established a partnership that will grant specialized educational programs to the tribe and include a $500,000 grant to the college.

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in Dowagiac said last week that it is partnering with Benton Harbor-based Lake Michigan College to develop educational cohort programs for tribe citizens and employees of Pokagon organizations.

The tribe will also grant $500,000 over five years to the college to help fund its roughly 38,000-square-foot Hanson Technology Center. The roughly $9-million project is under construction.

The center, designed by Progressive AE, will provide an open space with flexible classrooms and labs, such as hands-on advanced manufacturing training.

Career training programs

Pokagon citizens, employees and custodial parents of Pokagon children will have the opportunity to participate in three cohort programs to study a variety of industries: manufacturing, gaming, hospitality, tribal leadership and development and culinary management.

The programs are anticipated to launch in the fall 2017 semester.

Through the manufacturing cohort, tribal students can take courses at Lake Michigan College to earn an associate’s degree or higher and participate in an apprenticeship with Mno-Bmadsen’s Accu-Mold and D.A. Dodd businesses.

The tribal leadership cohort was developed for tribal students interested in working for the tribal government and features the study of tribal sovereignty, Potawatomi culture, tribal law and inter-governmental relationships.

The third cohort focuses on gaming, hospitality and culinary management.

"Long-standing relationship"

Robert Harrison, president of Lake Michigan College, said the institution has had a relationship with the Pokagon Band for a number of years, and the two entities are entering into a mutual agreement to help develop new programs and apprenticeships.

“We have had a pretty long-standing relationship with them, and this new relationship builds upon that,” Harrison said. “We will also participate with them as they develop a leadership curriculum for individuals — tribal members who would like to assume responsibility within the tribal political structure. The intent is we will start the design work with the tribal council and be ready to offer programs starting 2017.”

With the creation of additional programs, Harrison said the college views it as a way to help the tribal council, tribal members and their dependents and employees at the casino to find areas of interest to them as they seek employment.

“The tribal council is looking for ways to broaden its impact in the region, so to create a stronger regional economy is really a very interesting and commendable strategy for them,” Harrison said. “They are continuing to look for ways to build the local economy, as well as provide opportunities for tribal members. It really demonstrates a lot of foresight.”

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