MUSKEGON — Michael Carpenter, Muskegon Area Career Tech Center’s principal, was nervous about the start of first semester, with the majority of the program’s classrooms in its new, state-of-the-art facility. But he had nothing to worry about.
“We’re waiting for the sky to fall and it isn’t going to do it,” he said.
After years of being scattered throughout different buildings in the
. It is complete with computer labs; an early childhood development center; auto body and auto service labs where students work on actual customers’ cars; a lab for heating, air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration; and more.
The $8 million center was built on land leased from
Carpenter said the college has helped with the program throughout the transition process.
“You really couldn’t ask for a better post-secondary partner than MCC,” he said. “They were a real champion with this program.”
The new facility, which was funded by a one-mill levy passed in 2002, has a windmill, solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling in 75 percent of the building. Carpenter can control the computer-controlled temperature and light system from his computer at work — or at home.
The entire building is viewed as a lab with open architecture so students can see the cables and wiring along the ceiling, Carpenter said.
Carpenter said the school’s mission is to prepare students at least for entry-level work. Many classes also help the 740 juniors and seniors to get ahead with college classes or give them the basic skills they need to continue learning in a field. Though about 65 percent of students attending the center go on to college, Carpenter said the experience gives them the knowledge and skills that make finding a job possible.
“This gives kids a relevant type of education that many of them need to motivate them to move forward,” he said.
Seven more teachers have been hired for the program, each with at least 4,000 hours of professional experience in their fields.
“There’s a huge amount of experience,” he said.
Kathy Andrews, occupational therapist and therapy assistant teacher, said the students at the center are learning much of the information they would learn as college students in a similar program.
“They’re going to get a tremendous jump,” she said. “They’re getting the care skills that they’re going to need at the college level.”
Students in the program learn anatomy and ethics as well as sports medicine, athletic training, speech therapy, injury prevention and reconditioning. Andrews said she also has plans to get the students involved with job-shadowing opportunities.
With the majority of the programs under the same roof, Carpenter said teachers have more chances to interact and collaborate.
“There are a lot of things that they could work on together,” he said. “We just didn’t have that opportunity previously. They’re not in isolation anymore.”