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State sends Marshall Plan money to Muskegon County

The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District is the only West Michigan agency included in round-one of Marshall funding.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. - One of Governor Rick Snyder's final initiatives before leaving office at the end of the year is his Marshall Plan for talent.

On Monday Dec. 17, nine agencies from around the state were awarded a share of $15 million to fund innovative education models.

The awarded consortia represent a diverse group of businesses, K-12 school districts, postsecondary education institutions and other entities. The funding benefits more than 150,000 students and their communities statewide.

Of the $15 million in awards, $2.35 million will go to purchasing nearly 100 pieces of state-of-the-art equipment students can use to learn, with hands-on experience. Another $4.78 million will go toward hiring career navigators who will help students explore career options and pathways in Michigan.

The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District is the only West Michigan agency included in round-one of Marshall funding.

The MAISD will use $875,000 to hire three new career specialists to work out of the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center.

"To give kids career exposure, career activities and give them a look at what careers might look like for them as they make a plan for their future," said Randy Lindquist, Associate Superintendent of Academic Services Muskegon Area Intermediate School District.

Early in 2018 Governor Snyder toured a number of Michigan employers like Gentex in Zeeland to promote the Marshall Plan for talent. It's expected to grow to a $100-million dollar investment to help today's student prepare for tomorrow's in-demand jobs.

"When we step back to see how we are doing we found that we have multiple fields where our system simply will not fill those positions," Snyder told Gentex workers in March.

The new career specialists the MAISD is expected to hire in 2019 will join three others already working with K-12 students.

"I think we're going to have a huge impact to reach more students," said Lisa Hungerford, M.A.I.S.D. Career Specialist.

Hungerford helps students come up with an individual career development ladder. And she begins to see students start connecting with careers in middle school.

"The students become interested in why they're learning what they're learning and to be able to make that connection in the classroom," said Hungerford.

This year the Orchard View School District became the first in Muskegon County to allow middle school students to take welding at the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center. The state's talent gap includes skilled welders.

The welding class, and others at the tech center allow students to prepare for skilled jobs.

For Muskegon Catholic Central student Jazmine Bennett that might be a job as a welder.

"It's an option for me," said Bennett. And she already knows what her dream job would be. "Welding on spacecrafts," she says.

With the state's help to hire twice as many career specialists as are on the job now, Hungerford says Muskegon employers will eventually see the benefits from Marshall Plan investment too.

"There's a talent shortage," said Hungerford. "And they have a strong desire to keep the talent here in Muskegon."

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