Educators and economic developers work to improve workforce talents

ADRIAN – Lenawee County four-year colleges and K-12 educators are meeting with economic development officials to better develop local employer talent.

The Align Lenawee Talent Consortium is coordinating the effort. Align is the workforce development arm of Lenawee Now, the county’s economic development organization. Lenawee Now launched Align in 2014 to help address talent issues, which have a huge impact on a region’s economic development, according to a press release.

“Talent is the number one factor companies look for when identifying a new community to put down roots,” Tim Robinson, acting executive director of Lenawee Now, said in the release. “If organizations don’t see a good workforce development system in place that will provide them with talent for years to come, they’ll look elsewhere. »

Often in competition for students, Adrian College and the University of Siena Heights have come together to help solve the problem plaguing most county employers by creating multiple certifications, a break from their tradition of offering primarily degree programs. .

“The University of Siena Heights is thrilled to partner with Align Lenawee and Adrian College,” said University of Siena Heights President Sister Peg Albert. “Together we can make a difference in people’s lives by advancing their careers and influencing the growth of our local community.”

Albert noted that the partnership will help strengthen the local workforce and create a talent pool that will provide solutions for nearly every industry in the county.

“These certificates will provide students with a pathway to high-paying careers in high-demand jobs with the flexibility our students and professionals need,” said Jeffrey Docking, President of Adrian College. “We are grateful to everyone who has worked together on the certificate program, creating a new pool of local talent to enable our businesses to grow and thrive.”

That was the intent of the effort – to allow local businesses to grow and prosper. As a result, the Align team has brought together the help of local business owners, teachers from the Lenawee Middle School District Tech Center, and other K-12 educators across the county to collaborate on creating multiple exposure and skill-building programs for middle and high school students in areas of high-demanding jobs in multiple sectors.

“This ‘laddered’ approach begins in middle school, continues through high school, and ends with adult certification, allowing new graduates to enter the workforce sooner than they would after graduating. four years,” said Randy Yagiela, director of Align Lenawee Talent. Consortium.

The three-level talent pipeline ladder that Yagiela refers to was developed for each of the following areas: Accounting, Applied Computing, Cybersecurity, Digital Marketing, Early Childhood Education, Entrepreneurship, Future Educators, Healthcare, Management IT/data, project management and web development. Other career fields may be added.

“Ideally, with our young people, we would like to start introducing them to some of these hot job fields, because they are all in high demand, high salary and high skill fields,” said LISD Superintendent, Mark Haag. “Some of our best students are getting bored, and I think these lessons, if you really look at them, provide an opportunity to bring new things into the classroom that might awaken a student who hasn’t been awakened before.”

To help teachers use the program in their classrooms, the Align team, with the help of several school staff, identified the state teaching standards that apply to the newly constructed program at middle and high school level, allowing teachers to easily integrate the curriculum while achieving their teaching goals.

The program has been tested in several different schools and situations to help refine it. The project management program has been piloted at LISD Middle College, Lenawee Christian School, a LISD summer camp, and Springbrook Middle School.

Holly Reh, Project Controls Analyst, left, and Jake Wright, Project Manager, share their personal experiences on project management with Lenawee Intermediate School District Tech Center's Organize and Fix the World (Project Management) camp in July.

“I really appreciate what (the subject matter expert) was able to pull together in terms of material,” said Nicole Holden, a teacher at Springbrook Middle School. “Having him in place the lessons that were the foundation of what we did and then allowing me to give my own perspective on things, knowing my students, has been a wonderful experience.”

Holden would encourage other teachers to use the materials created from these joint efforts.

“Everyone says it takes a village, and it’s a great way for all of us to come together to make sure our students know they’re part of our community and that they matter and that their growth matters. “, she said.

The development of these lessons was funded by a multi-year Marshall Plan Talent Fund grant provided by the State of Michigan to LISD and executed by Align.

“I think I can speak for all of our districts to say that we were very happy to land the Marshall Plan grant here in Lenawee County,” Haag added. “We think we’re probably the only ones in the state doing this type of work.”

ProMedica’s Charles and Virgina Hickman Hospital in Adrian accounts for approximately 20% of all job openings in the county. Therefore, the hospital president, Dr. Julie Yaroch, was thrilled to hear about the youth programming.

“If we can partner with schools and they can identify students who may have a passion for what we do,” she said, “if we can make those connections earlier, that’s a win. for both of us.”

“It’s not a long process to get into the healthcare field,” Yaroch said. “There are many short-term programs that will get you the necessary education and/or certificate and licensure. It only takes an additional 12 weeks after you graduate from high school to become a phlebotomist. And where you start as your job in healthcare is not necessarily where you end up, there are lots of opportunities to grow.

Through these programs, Align is not discouraging students from going to college, said Sheila Blair, principal of Align.

“The goal of certification development is to get people into the workforce sooner after graduating from high school so they can figure out what they want to do and then go. in college to advance their position,” she said.

“Student loan debt is weighing on the economy these days. It’s staggering,” said Jennifer Haeussler, early childhood development expert and professor at the University of Siena Heights. don’t belong in college; it’s good to go to technical school or get a high school diploma and learn on the job.

Haeussler said students’ brain development changes when exposed to career options at an early age.

“If we start early in middle school to explore a variety of career options, it helps students realize that their gifts and talents can become their career; it helps them focus,” she said.

Blair said that while the adult certification programs were already rolling out at AC and SHU starting this fall, the middle and high school program will be rolling out to teachers and districts this fall through several events for teachers, counsellors, principals and superintendents. The first special event will be for middle school teachers on October 4.

“We’re very excited about this rollout and want to make it fun and easy for teachers to integrate the material into their existing classroom time,” she said. “We’re going to have our subject matter experts work directly with teachers to make using the lessons as easy and natural as possible.”

To that end, Blair said the new certifications being developed under the Marshall Plan are just another element of Lenawee County’s Workforce Development System, which includes the new Labor Management System. Align Learning – an online training solution – will launch later this summer with K-12 Schools, the Tech Center, the Southern Michigan Center for Science and Industry (SMCSI) in Hudson, and AC and SHU. Align also convenes training partners and certification providers for businesses in the region to provide training for employees and leaders.

To convey to parents, students and school staff the benefits of early exposure to career options, Align has developed a short video that explains the benefits at youtu.be/rRnoK2ngGtk

“Align’s design team and task force are moving forward to create a community-wide workforce development hub,” Yagiela said. The center would be an adult training space where Align hopes to provide the best talent development solutions across industries.

For more information on Align training, certification, or other efforts, contact Blair at [email protected].

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