Kalamazoo RESA (KRESA) and Southwest Michigan First’s public-private partnership, formed ahead of the 2019 Career & Technical Education (CTE) millage campaign, remains strong as the two agencies are united in the goal of redesigning Kalamazoo County’s CTE system. The leadership of both agencies is confident they will be able to deliver a substantial amount of the cost of the construction of a new, centrally located Career Center that will house equipment and courses that prepare students for future opportunities in our regional labor market. Logistical research is currently underway in search of a suitable site in the hopes of cutting the ribbon on the new facility in the fall of 2024.
In addition to the construction of the Career Center, plans for a CTE system’s redesign, announced by KRESA in a 2019 report to the community, include the development of strong career awareness and exploration programs to help students make informed plans for their futures; the design of cutting-edge high school CTE curriculum; the maximization of cooperation and collaboration with regional employers and higher education institutions; and the implementation of targeted supports to address systemic barriers to participation and ensure equitable access for all students.
After Kalamazoo County voters passed the Career and Technical Operational Millage in 2019, KRESA partnered with the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, the University of Michigan Youth Policy Lab and Southwest Michigan First to conduct a comprehensive analysis of CTE programming and local labor statistics to evaluate which possible CTE programs are most likely to lead to well-paying, high-demand careers in southwest Michigan. This research included an employer survey, employer focus groups by sector, ongoing dialogue with stakeholders in business and industry, and two intensive local labor market analyses conducted by the Upjohn Institute and University of Michigan Youth Policy Lab. In January 2021, KRESA published the results of these studies in a second report to the community.
A crucial next step for KRESA and Southwest Michigan First is assembling a CTE steering committee comprised of business, education, and community leaders to provide recommendations to the KRESA Board of Education. The steering committee will provide valuable input on the curriculum standards, facility size and design, and equipment needed to deliver high-quality instruction to students.
A site for the new Career Center has not yet been determined, but priority will be given to a location with proximity to local employers and convenient access for each high school in the county. Options are being considered in the central part of the county near Portage Road/Sprinkle Road and the I-94 corridor. The location must simplify transportation to and from the Career Center and work-based learning opportunities for students.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kalamazoo RESA has made substantial progress implementing the first stage of its redesign of Kalamazoo County’s CTE system. The intermediate school district has focused on the critical areas of need laid out in its first report to the community in 2019. Among other steps, KRESA has hired six additional career coaches to implement career awareness and exploration programming across all nine school districts in the County. During the 2020-21 school year, the career coaches have focused on implementation at the middle school level, focusing on various topics that include financial literacy and career planning. They will continue to work closely with local school districts to customize CTE programming, ensuring it is relevant to each school and complements classroom learning.