Kent County educators with a one-year program that introduces students to good-paying careers of today and tomorrow earned top honors at the Governor’s Economic and Education Summit, aimed at connecting businesses and schools to make Michigan a national leader in attracting, developing and retaining talent.
The Kent Intermediate School District’s Design Lab program was presented with the summit’s Best Practice Award, selected by educators and business leaders attending the daylong event in Grand Rapids.
“Michigan has some of the best, brightest and most innovative entrepreneurs and educators in the nation who are working together on strategies to attract develop and retain world-class talent in our state,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “These awards recognize the dedicated leaders who are making a positive impact on their communities.”
More than 100 entries were submitted in January from school groups, private sector and joint partnerships into one of three categories: Talent Attraction Programs, Talent Development Programs and Talent Retention Programs. Nominations were narrowed to a top three in each category before the conference, and the top contenders each made presentations on their programs during breakout sessions.
Talent Attraction Program/Best Practice of the Year
The Kent Intermediate School District’s Design Lab received the Attracting Talent and the Best Practice of the Year awards.
Kent Intermediate School District’s Design Lab is a one-year technical and career education program created to introduce 10th-graders to STEM and career-tech programs that are available to students through the Kent Career Tech Center.
“In the process of leaving no child behind, we left career exploration behind,” Principal John Kraus said, pointing out that efforts to expose students to potential jobs diminished in recent years.
Rather than focusing on a single industry, Design Lab uses the concept of STEM subjects plus design thinking, problem solving, and communication skills to give students a taste of potential careers. The explore professions in everything from construction to mechatronics and engineering to industrial design fields.
Talent Development Program/Best Practice Finalist
The Fresh and Furious, operated by the Capital Area Career Center, won the award for Developing Talent. The Fresh and Furious is a student food truck, that was created to help high school juniors and seniors develop skills related to their culinary arts and hospitality programs. Students designed the food truck business plan and students are managing the truck.
This experience provides them not only with the entrepreneurial skills, but skills in management, inventory control, and event-planning as well as customer service. Students participate in the field trips to potential employers and educational institutions, job shadows, and un-paid and paid work experience with area employers.
Last year, these employers included Lansing area bakeries, restaurants, retirement centers, institutions and other small businesses. Students earned nationally recognized certifications through the program as well.
Talent Retention Program/Best Practice Finalist
Networks Northwest earned the Retaining Talent award. Networks Northwest, with various private and public sector regional partners, launched the TEC Scholarship program in 2015 to keep talented, trained students in Northwest Lower Michigan.
The scholarship promotes a blended learning approach, combining classroom training with on-the-job learning. The program is customized to each individual student and provides the opportunity for youth to pursue occupational certification, degree programs, or an industry-recognized credential. Students’ on-the-job training varies, including internships, summer employment, work experience or apprenticeships.
While the scholarship was originally launched as a pilot program using a one-time grant, local partners have since embraced the program and have committed to sustaining it through existing funds and increased investment.
The 2016 Governor’s Economic and Education Summit brought together more than 600 educators, business leaders and workforce professionals from across Michigan to collaborate on solutions for attracting world-class talent and retaining the workers who already call Michigan home.