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Getting down to work

Students learn valuable job skills in secondary programs


by Grant Bachman


Approximately 63 percent of 2020 high school graduates were enrolled for college in the fall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In a country that constantly pushes its youth to go to college and earn a degree, some educators are helping the other 37 percent pursue careers that better fit their skills and interests.

Holt High School’s director of secondary programs Lucas Schrauben said that although Holt already offers exceptional classes, they need more programs that help students take alternative career paths that better suit their interests and talents.

“It's not that we didn't already have electives, it's just that we need more flexible options so that students can have things that will help them advance at an earlier age,” Schrauben said.

The goal of all education is to put students in a better position to succeed. Secondary programs keep the same goal, but spark interest in students that typical classes don’t.

“We've got several students who have done the Greater Michigan Construction Academy program, who are now electrical apprentices. And when you do an apprenticeship program after high school, you work for somebody, but then you also take classes in the evening that they're paying for,” Schrauben said.

Senior Zach Griffin is a part of the Greater Michigan Construction Academy this year. Griffin said that he hopes that people will enroll in programs like the GMCA in the future because it gives more options when deciding their career path.

“I hope that people take these classes because there's so much more than just going to college. You can make a really good wage by not going to college and just getting straight into a trade,” Griffin said.

Griffin said the learning experience in classes such as the GMCA are different from the typical elective class that students take just to fill up their schedule.

“I'm also in Energy Industry Fundamentals, which is a class where you learn about the power grid,” Griffin said. “And then my favorite part of the class is every Wednesday we go to a training facility, and it's hands-on training.”

The school system in the U.S. today can often feel repetitive and cause students to lose interest quickly. Not only do the secondary programs give students a unique and intriguing learning experience, but they also give real life work experience and the chance to get their foot in the door into the industry they are interested in making a career in. Holt offers a number of different secondary programs such as Business Technology programs, Pre-Engineering, and Holt Early College that give unique opportunities and career paths.

Energy Industry Fundamentals teacher Mark Frantz said his class gives students who are going into the energy industry a higher advantage over students who did not take Energy Industry Fundamentals.

“The final exam is a certification test given to me by the CEWD (Center for Energy Workforce Development)… If they pass it, they'll get a certificate saying ‘They know the fundamentals. They know the first steps, give these people a chance’,” Frantz said.

Schrauben said that many students view these programs as normal electives, but there are many extra benefits such as college credits and industry specific certifications that come with them.

Even if students in a secondary program don’t pursue a career in that industry, the skills and knowledge they gain will help them in their future careers.

“I want to go into plumbing, and I think that it's good to have knowledge of all the trades, no matter what trade you go into, because there's overlap and every trade really,” Griffin said.

Another secondary program offered at Holt High School helps students prepare for a high-wage and high-demand career. Holt’s Aviation Academy offers two electives that serve as a pathway to become a pilot.

“The first semester is Futuristic Flight… At the end of the semester, you can take your FFA, commercial drone license test, and you should be prepared to pass that,” Schrauben said. “And then the second semester is the study of flight and it's essentially ground school. We bring a pilot in who teaches these programs from Mason airport, and he's teaching the same curriculum he teaches for students who go to the airport to learn to be a pilot.”

Holt’s secondary programs are not meant to replace the traditional college route. However, the secondary programs can help put students on the right track to success.

“...if students are self aware enough to have an idea of who they are and what they would like to do, we've got opportunities to help you get there,” Schrauben said.

Students in the Pre-apprenticeship training program learn how to weld, a skill that gives them valuable experience over other applicants when they are looking to be hired in the future. Photo Credit Grant Bachman

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