Finding and developing talent to fill today’s jobs as well as those envisioned in a technologically accelerating future is challenging municipalities, counties and states around the country. But in this region, a collaboration between educational institutions, employers and workforce development organizations is helping ensure that employers can find those sought-after employees with the skills to flourish in today’s and tomorrow’s job markets.
Muskegon Area Promise
Muskegon Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) supports the popular Muskegon Area Promise, a scholarship program for graduates of Muskegon high schools who have maintained 3.5 GPAs. The program provides two years of free tuition at Baker College or Muskegon Community College. More than 460 students have benefited from Muskegon Area Promise since it was launched in 2015. In January 2019, a “Dream Bigger” fundraising campaign raised nearly $1 million to help provide scholarships.
“The power of the Promise is that it creates our very own talent pipeline,” said MAISD Superintendent John Severson. “Our Promise Scholars today are our future employees tomorrow.”
MAISD's Career Tech Center
MAISD’s Career Tech Center is a unique educational and workforce development hub. High school juniors and seniors may spend half a day at their regular schools and the other half at the center, choosing from an impressive array of classes, from Health Technology to Graphic Production Technologies. An advisory board of local employers helps guide the curriculum.
“Kids can get a taste of what they might pursue after high school,” says Kristin Tank, MAISD public information officer. “They can get totally immersed in different areas and try things out.”
In 2019, the state’s Marshall Plan awarded MAISD $875,000, which will allow it to hire three additional career specialists and expand its reach to students from fourth grade on.
Muskegon Made is a countywide, comprehensive career development hub that serves Muskegon students in grades K through 12. The work-based learning system provides students with the employability skills they need to succeed, utilizing internships, events, job shadowing, contact with job specialists and employers, and other resources to help students eventually land a job they want and are ready for.
At the annual Muskegon Made Job Fair students meet with local employers and hone their skills too. In April 2019, 40 local employers were on hand, “ready to hire,” says Tank, “Students prepare their resumes, meet with career specialists and learn how to present themselves. They get excited about it.”
West Michigan Works!
West Michigan Works!, part of the larger Michigan Works!, is the workforce development hub for a six-county area that includes Muskegon County. The agency works with job seekers and employers to meet the needs of both, especially challenging in today’s low-unemployment economy. Among the many services it offers are job search guidance, career exploration, help completing a high school or GED degree, job training, apprenticeships, veterans’ assistance and hiring events. More than 25 free workshops are offered each week, on topics such as cover- letter writing, interview skills, resumes and computer skills.
Muskegon County is home to Muskegon Community College and Baker College. Both colleges, including Baker’s Culinary Institute of Michigan, are top- rated institutions and have been nationally recognized for a number of their core programs.
Additionally, Muskegon offers access to opportunities with four- year universities including Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, and Ferris State University.
Grand Valley State University, located in nearby Allendale, is home to nearly 25,000 students who can pursue any of more than 130 degrees in traditional liberal arts, engineering, computer sciences, medical sciences, pre- professional studies, performing arts and much more.
Kickstart to Career
In the 2018-19 school year, every student in public or private kindergarten in Muskegon County received a wonderful gift from the Community Foundation for Muskegon County: a savings account in his or her own name, with a $50 deposit to launch the account. Dubbed KickStart to Career, the program seeks to help kids build financially toward their futures, with the hope that the student and family will contribute to the account over the years. Students can earn incentive deposits and gain financial education. When a student is ready to graduate from high school, the money accumulated in the interest-bearing account can be withdrawn to pay for educational or career training expenses such as tuition and books.