New Michigan Career Pathway Alliance is the right approach – at a pivotal time – for the manufacturing workforce

Posted By: Jeannine Kunz, Vice President, Tooling U-SME on June 30, 2017

This week, Michigan announced a new alliance, the Michigan Career Pathway Alliance, geared toward supporting students on whatever career path they wish to take, while enhancing opportunities within career technical education (CTE).

Plans proposed by the alliance highlight how industry and educators can come together to create a 21st century education system that supports all students in whatever career path they take. Education today is paramount, but there is more than one path to achieving that education. For the past 20-30 years, the focus has been on encouraging students to go to college and get a four-year degree, often at the expense of careers available through all of the opportunities that come with apprenticeships, technical schools and industry certifications.

All told, Governor Rick Snyder announced 17 recommendations. Three of these recommendations are especially appealing to me, from the perspective of addressing the manufacturing skills gap:

  • Expand CTE statewide – Start the discussion to provide equitable opportunities for all students with additional funding to schools to operate CTE and professional trades programs statewide.

    CTE and trades programs have taken the brunt of school funding cuts, and manufacturers – as well as other industries – are seeing the impact during their employee searches.

  • Ensure state-funded CTE programs lead to an industry recognized credential – Require an industry recognized credential as determined by the state (TED and MDE) through discussions with regional employers.

    CTE, without mapping back to industry needs, benefits neither students or industry. By ensuring that programs align with industry, students gain marketable credentials and employers employees with the needed skills.

  • Count rigorous CTE credentials as transferable college credits – Any institution that takes public money should accept and count these credits towards a degree from that institution. Use Michigan Transfer Network as the “referee” to determine the rigor of CTE credentials.

    CTE programs can offer a hands-on start to countless traditional degree programs, such as engineering, and students deserve the proper recognition of this work in their pursuit of higher education.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of helping manufacturers and educational institutions enhance and expand their workforce development programs. Just last week, a group of high school students took our new Additive Manufacturing Fundamentals Certification exam during the SkillsUSA national competition in Louisville, Kentucky. These recommendations, if enacted, will allow Michigan students to gain similar certifications while still in high school, better preparing them for entering the workforce or continuing their education past graduation.

Today’s students have more opportunities available to them than ever before, and the recommendations from the Michigan Career Pathway Alliance take a critical step forward in ensuring we are supporting all career ambitions – whether it be a traditional four-year college or skilled trades.

I encourage our manufacturing stakeholders across the country to look at Michigan’s recommendations and find solutions to boost career technical education in K-12 schools in your local communities. You can start by downloading a copy of our complimentary white paper, Making The Grade: Schools Adopt Business Approach to Develop the Next Generation of Manufacturing Workers, which helps instructors, administrators and others outline the case for building strong high school CTE programs in order to develop a strong manufacturing workforce.

Tags: "Career Technical Education", CTE, "Michigan Career Pathway Alliance", "Tooling U-SME"