The Michigan Department of Education just published recent data on graduates who attend career centers in the state of Michigan; the data is pretty exciting. “In 2012, 95 percent of Michigan secondary students who completed a state-approved career and technical education (CTE) program the prior year were either employed or in continuing education or training, or both.”

What is interesting about CTE programming is its ability to “connect” with students. Positive research for hands-on learning is overwhelming and has been forever; not everyone learns the same way.

Despite the pushes by the Michigan legislature and the Governor to insist that everyone needs to be college ready, we should not allow this approach to gain footing.

Yes, we should support higher standards; students need higher standards to be ready to compete with the worlds’ best students. The secret to success with student learning doesn’t lie in forcing more college-prep courses such as foreign language, physics, chemistry, algebra II, etc. on students who don’t want them; they’ll take those classes if and when they are ready.

Connecting with students where they are in their educational journey and keeping them ON the trail is key. In America, you can speed up, slow down, or change your journey whenever you are ready; this is not true around the world. Most educational systems of the world are “sorters” where success on a set of exams may determine your life, without a chance for changing paths.

In the past, career centers solely focused upon hands-on application, but now, a combination of high-tech skills and a solid educational foundation is a must. We need to continue to provide more opportunities to connect those students to the needs of the workforce. The MDE article goes on to support CTE programs with this statistic: of those that were employed full-time, “60 percent were employed in a field related to their high school CTE program.” Once students connect, they are off to the races!

The Mecosta Osceola Intermediate School District (MOISD) runs our successful local career center. We believe that giving students the programs they want and need is important; more opportunity is always better.

One change that happened in the last five years was moving school districts from a slot system to wide-open enrollment. The Career Center went from 450 to 600 students overnight and has been steady ever since, even with drastic enrollment drops in our local school districts. Student discipline has all but disappeared. Why?

Students are connecting to what they learn and seeing a useable future for themselves.

When is the last time you’ve been to the MOISD Career Center? It’s not your grandparents’ career center any more! Give them a call at 796-5805 for a tour sometime. We love showing off our high-tech Career Center and its connection to hardworking students.

Dr. Finch can be reached at cfinch@moisd.org or followed on Twitter on CFinchMOISD