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Muskegon Lakeshore Focuses on the Future

Tech center prepares high schoolers and adults for successful, local careers.

By Teree Caruthers on April 27, 2023

Muskegon Area Career Tech Center
Teri Genovese

A cornerstone of the Muskegon Lakeshore region’s economic success is its highly skilled and readily available workforce.

Thanks to standout Muskegon schools that prepare students for both college and in-demand, local careers and a career tech center that partners with businesses to ensure students across the region are learning the skills those industry leaders need, the region keeps a steady pipeline of talent flowing to relocating and expanding businesses.

Muskegon Schools: On the Right Pathways

The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District gives students a head start to careers with a robust career and technical education program.

Through the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center, the district offers 16 career programs in growing fields, ranging from graphic production, biotech and engineering to criminal justice, internet security and veterinary sciences.

“We work directly with industry employers in Muskegon to learn what careers are in demand, and then we only offer classes at the Career Tech Center that align with those in-demand career pathways,” says Jill Stamison, adult education navigator for the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center.

“Our instructors work with local businesses to make sure that our courses are aligned with the skills needed to be employable and effective in the workplace. That allows us to be able to adjust the syllabus based on what employers say they need from our students.”

Jill Stamison, Muskegon Area Career Tech Center.

The 73,000-square-foot training center serves junior and senior high school students from 15 different school districts across the region as well as adult learners. The center’s Link Muskegon dual enrollment program allows adults to take the General Educational Development (GED) test and earn a high school diploma while also learning a trade in one of the center’s career pathways.

“We offer machining and welding, and we have a medical administration program. Our sessions run about 100 hours a semester, and the goal is for them to get their GED or diploma at the end of one semester and career training at the end of the other. Then when they complete the program, they are ready to go straight into the workforce,” Stamison says.

Muskegon Area Career Tech Center
Teri Genovese

Learning by Doing at the Tech Center

For both adult and high school learners, the Career Tech Center offers hands-on training and project-based learning opportunities that help better prepare students for real-world work.

“With hands-on training, you’re right there with the equipment that you’re going to be working with on the job and you’re learning from the instructor and working with your classmates on solving problems,” Stamison says. “It’s so much more effective than just reading something in a book and then trying to visualize it. This prepares them much better to go right into the workplace.”

In addition, the Career Tech Center partners with businesses to offer students internships and apprenticeships.

Companies, including Integrity Trailers, Ramos Auto Body, GE Aviation and Sintel Inc., give students on-the-job training and help them apply what they learn in the classroom. The businesses also benefit by getting a headstart in recruiting a well-trained workforce.

“Technical skills learned in the classroom are great, but students can learn even more technical skills on the job through apprenticeships,” says Sasamon Parker, placement specialist for the Career Tech Center.

“Our Career Tech students already have some fundamental knowledge about some of the jobs they’re placed in. For example, if they’re my machining students, I put them through manufacturing. They have some basic background about manufacturing, about using the tools, devices and equipment, so that makes the training an easy transition for the company. More importantly, though, students learn employability skills that they can only learn by being on the job.”

Powerful Partnerships in Muskegon

The Career Tech Center collaborates with Muskegon Community College to allow a seamless matriculation into college.

Dual enrollment and the Early College Muskegon County program give high school students a chance to simultaneously earn college credit.

“We definitely have a really strong relationship with Muskegon Community College – particularly with our medical assistant program. It’s great because our students can graduate high school and, in the same year, become college students. We consider that just a huge success when they’re able to go on to postsecondary education. We also work with MCC for manufacturing, welding and machining,” Stamison says.

Graphic design students in the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District
Muskegon Area Intermediate School District

Meet the Superintendent

Serving the public schools of Muskegon and parts of Oceana, Ottawa and Newaygo counties, the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District plays a major role both in workforce and economic development.

Superintendent Randy Lindquist discusses how the district prepares students for careers.

Superintendent Randy Lindquist

Randy Lindquist

How do you introduce students to local, in-demand careers?
Schools help students think about future careers and pathways to get into those careers. We help introduce them to those pathways through work-based learning opportunities, such as job shadowing or field trips to local businesses. We also work with businesses to offer internships and apprenticeships and other experiences for students, so they get an idea of what those jobs entail.

How do you work with local businesses to ensure students are learning the skills those businesses need?
We’re pretty connected with our local business leaders and hear from them regularly on what they’re looking for in the workforce, and we try to address those needs in our programming around careers.

What other advantages does the school district offer students?
We provide a good depth and breadth of experiences for students to show them the world of work and what it takes to get into their career of choice. We offer students a lot of different experiences to help them make decisions about what they want to do in the future.

Now that you are at the helm, what are your plans to help the district continue supplying locally skilled talent?
We’re constantly looking at how to change our programs to address the needs of our local businesses. As the world changes and the demands of work change, we have to continually look at our programming and make changes to that as well. We’re constantly having conversations about how to best prepare kids for the world of work in the future.

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