By Marisa Oberle
BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich. – New numbers from the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan say the number of students enrolled in career and technical education programs is growing.
CTE programs include auto and manufacturing, graphic design, culinary classes, and more. Educators say the programs provide hands-on learning that allows students to develop skills essential for their future careers.
Educators don’t think this growth will slow down anytime soon.
On a cloudy morning, Amani Scott, a student at Niles High School, focuses on her computer screen.
The junior is designing a sweatshirt for her cheer team.
As Amani shapes and places, she credits her ability to create to the CTE program she enrolled in her freshman year.
“There was something called graphic design and production,” said Scott. “I found that super interesting.”
She’s not succeeding in the advanced class and plans to use the college credit she’s earning toward a degree in film.
“It really helps you get a taste and dip your toe in,” said Scott.
“They can develop skills like essential for those careers and prepare for either the work world or to go into post-secondary education,” said Niles High School CTE director Carrie George.
CTE programs added more than 1,300 students in the 2017-18 school year. It’s the third consecutive year where enrollment grew.
That growth is happening in Berrien County. Berrien County’s CTE program added 700 students between the 2013-14 school year and this school year.
“There’s a huge skill trades gap here in Michigan where we need students that are interested in those areas,” said Niles High School CTE director Carrie George. “I think that students are finally getting that word that there’s a lot of possibilities and opportunities.”
George says for college bound students, they get a head start on their degree. However, there are opportunities for students who don’t want to go to a tradition four-year school. George says there are lots of openings in the auto and manufacturing and healthcare industries in Berrien County.
“Working with different employers in the area, through our advisory committees for our programs, there are a lot of employers in the area that need students that come out of high school and are ready to work on the job,” said George.
It shows students they can succeed as long as they create the opportunity.
“Even if a student takes a class, and they don’t think it’s where they’re going to end up career wise, they’re learning skills that they’ll use in any job that they choose,” said George.
“I think one of the reasons why it’s growing is the students realize that these are classes that are leading to their professional careers,” said Niles High School graphic design instructor Alyse Hoit. “It’s project based learning. They’re getting their hands on the technology and the skills that they know they’re going to need to learn their future careers.”
“There’s just different passions than what we’re all used to and CTE programs really help bring that out,” said Scott.