MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — Early in 2018 then Michigan Governor Rick Snyder toured a number of lakeshore manufactures to promote the Marshall Plan for Talent.

Then in June Snyder signed the workforce development plan into law. Over the next five years the plan will funnel $100 million in state funds into Michigan's public schools to train students for high-demand jobs.

In Muskegon County, the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) is using money from the Marshall Plan to double the number of career specialists working with students to develop road maps to their future careers.

The MAISD had three career specialists during the 2018 to 2019 school year, this year there are six.

"It's a better ratio so they have more face time in local districts working with staff and students," said Randy Lindquist, Associate Superintendent for Academic Services with the MAISD.

Each of the six career specialists will work with two school districts in Muskegon County. Their work will include different efforts from kindergarten to 12th grade.

The state funds means members of the team will have more one-on-one time with students.

Lundquist hopes every high school graduate in Muskegon County uses the expertise of the career specialist assigned to his or her district to develop a career plan.

"Not to graduate and then go now what," Lindquist said. "But actually having a plan." A plan that includes the steps a student will make after graduation.

Benika Longmire is one of the three new career specialists. She'll work with students and staff in the Muskegon and North Muskegon Public Schools.

"I'm ready to dive in," Longmire said.

Longmire says her efforts will be to expose students at Muskegon and North Muskegon to the kinds of in-demand jobs Muskegon area employers need to fill.

Jobs in high-tech manufacturing, health care, and human services.

The Marshall Plan's goal of the to fill the state's talent pool and to improve the pipeline for students from graduation to jobs.

The money for Muskegon County will support the team of career specialists for three years.

"One of our goals will be to look at how we can sustain that beyond year three," Lindquist said. 

Longmire says she's already planning to arrange classroom visits from professionals, take students on tours at local companies, and develop lesson plans for teachers that will help students identify careers they're already interested in pursuing.

And Longmire says her message to students, even elementary students is to start thinking now about their future career.

"Let's talk about some different things, maybe what your parents do, or grandparents," she said.

The career specialists say they're not only excited to work with students but parents too so career conversations will continue outside of school.

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