CMF members tour skills-based education program in Jackson

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Educators are taking a different approach to ensuring Michigan students are prepared for their next step, whether that’s college or a career, by promoting skills-based learning in the classroom. 

The Governor’s Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) along with Jackson Community Foundation hosted a site visit at the Jackson Area Career Center for CMF members and state partners in May. Attendees learned about a successful skills-based education program, Jackson Area College and Career Connection Early/Middle College Program (JAC3=E/MC). The popular program has been funded through local public and private partnerships. 

CMF members toured the school and dined on a meal prepared by students in the culinary program. JAC3=E/MC is designed to prepare students for future full-time employment with Jackson-area businesses.

The skills-based program matches goals for Governor Rick Snyder’s Marshall Plan for Talent, which was introduced in February. The Marshall Plan is Snyder’s programmatic way to develop a more skilled workforce in information technology, manufacturing, healthcare and business.

According to the state, the plan will better prepare Michigan students for employment and make Michigan a more desirable place for workers.

The governor expects over 811,000 jobs to become available in Michigan through 2024, which should garner over $49 billion.

Shea-Leigh Carris, a junior at Michigan Center Jr/Sr High School gave CMF members a tour of the Jackson Area Career Center.

“I’m learning a lot of communication skills and putting myself out there,” Carris said. “I used to be very introverted but since I’ve been here I enjoy talking to people and creating things. I like that what I make makes people smile.”

Carris, in her first year of the program, is taking culinary courses. Next year she hopes to make it off the waiting list for the program’s most popular class, Visual Communications.

In the meantime, she’s learning how to cook, how a serving line functions, the details of operating the front and back of a restaurant and processes for hosting events. At the end of the course she has the option to take the ServSafe certification in food and safety, which will last up to 5 years.

Carris hopes to be a business owner one day.

She was one of 1,900 Jackson County Intermediate School District students who visited the career center last year to learn about JAC3=E/MC.

The free and optional three-year program allows juniors and seniors to obtain their high school diploma, earn college credit up to an Associate Degree, earn technical credentials and network with local employers.

The skills-based program offers students 22 disciplines to study, including construction trades, law enforcement, agri science, precision machining and healthcare technician.

Ron Richards, work-based learning coordinator at the Career Center, says students have the option to complete certifications after completing their coursework.  

To close the talent gap, the governor is calling for creation and expansion of programs like JAC3=E/MC. He wants career exploration for students, investments in students and teachers and more support for existing college and career readiness programs. To do this, the state would invest $100 million in programs, stipends and advanced curricula.

Jackson educators shared with CMF members the skills-based education program is a community-supported effort. 

Local employers assist in the classroom, engaging with students daily and teaching them necessary skills to secure employment.

Over 30 local companies are involved this year. For now, Jackson ISD students can attend the program for free as their home school pays a portion for them to attend and six community partners match the remainder.

Learn more about the Marshall Plan.

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