Students completing the Integrated Education and Technology Program were all smiles as they graduated April 18 in a ceremony at the administration building for Allegan Public Schools. (Photo by Virginia Ransbottom)

Accelerated technical training program graduates 15

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

Fifteen Allegan County students in a program that pairs a second chance to complete a high school education while arming them with skilled labor credentials, celebrated completion on Wednesday, April 18, at Allegan Public Schools administration building.

The Integrated Education and Technology program of Allegan County consists of GED or high school completion alongside accelerated technical training, so in a short period of time, adult learners are able to complete their diploma or GED and obtain an industry-recognized skill in construction, manufacturing or nursing.

“It continues to take a village to get students to graduate but it’s not enough,” said Laura Feffer, Allegan Alternative High School principal. “They need training to get a job, keep a job, and break the cycle of poverty.

“The business community desperately needs to hire skilled trades and higher skills means higher wages.”

It’s also a success story for the collaboration of community agencies and adult education providers who have been meeting for three years to pool their resources to teach students not only the academic content to complete high school but also the employability skills to earn a sustainable wage.

The partners involved include Allegan Alternative  Education, Allegan Adult Education, Plainwell Renaissance Adult Education, West Michigan Works, Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan Career & Technical Institute, Lake Michigan College, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Allegan County Community Action,  Love INC, the Linking Center, 70x7 Life Recovery, Bridges of Hope Allegan County, area employers, and other community based organizations.

“We were operating in little silos and now the silo walls are coming down,” said Brenda Nyhoff, director of Allegan Adult Education.

Plainwell Renaissance High School principal Tammy Glupker said while sister programs who care about Allegan learners were operating within their own walls, no one really knew what the other was doing.

She said three years ago, Nyhoff invited them all together to break down those walls.

“We did a great job in those silos for 10 years getting people to graduation, but to do better, students needed to know where to go once they graduated, what’s out there, and to give them some ideas of what they can do for the next years in life,” Glupker said.

Nyhoff said for some, it’s the first time in their family anyone has earned anything higher than a diploma.

“These organizations have been meeting to communicate between those offering education and those offering jobs to create a pathway to a softer entry,” she said.

Construction—Pre-Apprentice Certificate Training is taught by Michigan Career and Technical Institute in Plainwell and is not only a State of Michigan post secondary credential but nationally portable, being accepted by the Department of Labor, said Brian Smith, MCTI instructor.

The training is 75 percent hands on, building then deconstructing five scaled down homes. The other 25 percent concerns Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines.

Receiving certificates in this category were Brandon Howland, Nathan Kling, Arizona Martin, Ron Sherwood and Maile Tucker.

Brandon Howland, of Wayland, said the training taught him the basics he needed to get an entry-level construction position and the possibility of further training for a more specific trade such as electrician. He already had an interview set up with a truss and lumber company.

Tucker, a mom and dishwasher, will be graduating with a high school diploma on May 29. She said the program also paid for transportation to and from MCTI.

Tuition is paid through grants by Michigan Works! and other partners. The training covers the content that companies are seeking for employees through workforce development.

Certified Production Technician Training program is nationally recognized through the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council for safety, quality, processes and maintenance. It is taught by Grand Rapids Community College.

Receiving certificates were Dimitri Berry, Jonathen Gasaway, Auburn Hand, Mason Jilek, Ryan Jones, Conner McCord and Gabriel VanOrder.

Auburn Hand of Otsego said to get an idea of what jobs manufacturers had to offer, they toured Parker Hannifin, Trans-Matic, Ropes Courses, Bay Valley and MEC, to name a few.

Ryan Jones of Kalamazoo said the hardest part of the training was getting there two days a week for 10 to 12 weeks.

“It’ll look good on my resume instead of walking into an interview with nothing to offer but hard work,” he said. “It was a great experience with fun instructors.

“I just want to get better and improve with professional development.”

Certified Nursing Assistant Training is a seven-week course with another week of clinical training in the field. On Wednesday three students received their pins as Certified Nursing Aides. Once passing state testing the certification is for Certified Nursing Assistant.

Amber Caswell and  two young men were in the CNA program this year. Jack Hitts III of Hopkins had already been hired by The Laurels of Hudsonville. Jonathan Keur of Allegan was late to the ceremony because he had an interview at Allegan General Hospital. Caswell is a dietary aide at Allegan Medical Care Community.

Sue Fleming a MiWorks instructor  for work place excellence said while its important for the community to work together as a team for employability skills, the credit goes to the students.

“They balanced a lot—school, family, training, jobs—it’s a lot more than most adults can juggle,” she said.

The Integrated Education and Training program’s first group of students started last year with 14 students and completed in May 2017.

GRCC was new to the mix this year and this summer, the IET program will be adding a Going Pro Apprenticeship Readiness program.   

The readiness program offers a paid work experience over the summer with a local manufacturing company. which results in course credits and certificates at no cost. It is also a pathway to a registered apprenticeship and nationally recognized credential. For more information on the readiness program go to westmiworks.org/goingpro or call (269) 512-7812.

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