LSCP Perspectives: Celebrating a new school year
You’ve surely noticed it: the surge in activity throughout Marquette County as families with K-12 children prepare for a new school year, college students return to Northern Michigan University, and career technical programs begin preparations for the next batch of students to fill vital skilled trades jobs across the region. While it may signal the approaching end of summer for many, the business community warmly embraces this upswing in activity, as it brings fresh opportunities to lay pathways for these students to establish their careers right here in Marquette County upon graduation.
There has been no shortage of discussion in recent years about the impact of the pandemic and rising tuition costs on college enrollment. Despite those challenges, Northern Michigan University is welcoming its largest freshman class in years. That’s a big deal. And one we should all celebrate because NMU’s success is important to the entire county. Not only does the school have an immense direct economic impact from wages, retail sales, capital investment, and more, but it also directly generates the talent pool our businesses need. NMU is the path for many students to first experience the U.P., and it can be a path for them to stay as well. The entire economic ecosystem here is working toward that shared goal.
And although college is the right path for some individuals, numerous others might find a rewarding path in the skilled trades. To support these options, the LSCP Foundation offers support for two significant career technical programs: the Midwest Skills Development Center (MSDC) and the Career Technical Education (CTE) Committee.
The MSDC is home to the Electrical Line Technician Program, welcoming classes of approximately 35 students each year who learn all the skills to help maintain the electrical system we all rely on daily. Started in 2003, the program is made possible thanks to a partnership between the LSCP Foundation and Northern Michigan University.
The school’s efforts are guided by a committee that receives administrative support from LSCP staff. Over 80% of students who graduate from the program are successfully employed, earning family-sustaining wages with benefits.
The CTE Committee was established in October 2013 with the intent of bringing awareness to the skilled workforce careers needed to sustain and grow our regional economy. The CTE Committee works hard throughout the year to make sure students are aware of the opportunities available to them via secondary and post-secondary vocational programs.
This work couldn’t be done without the committee partners, so I encourage you to visit www.nmu.edu/cte/committee to see the list of those committing their time to this important work and to learn more.
No discussion of education is complete without the impact of our K-12 school system. With eight public school systems in the county educating over 7,000 students, our schools are often some of the largest employers in their local community and serve more than just an educational role.
The LSCP strives to comprehend the talent needs of these crucial organizations. Additionally, education leaders, integral members of the Marquette County Ambassadors, visit Lansing biannually to advocate for our mutual priorities. A robust workforce originates from a solid foundation in primary education, making it essential for us to comprehend and bolster the resources necessary for our schools’ success.
While there’s much more I could delve into regarding education, space is limited. The key takeaway: having a strong education system from primary to post-secondary is essential to ensuring our continued economic prosperity. On behalf of the entire LSCP team, we wish everyone a happy and healthy beginning to the new school year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Christopher Germain is the Lake Superior Community Partnership’s CEO.