BIG RAPIDS – While all high schools aim to impart to students a sense of career readiness by the time of graduation, the Mecosta-Osceola Career Center is especially focused on teaching employability skills. Four new instructors at the center this year should help further that mission.

Cindy Derscheid is teaching nursing services at the career center, Toni Valley is the diesel technology instructor, Frank West is leading the public safety program and Chris Battle is teaching integrated construction technology.

“All of our program instructors that are new this year have a lot of business or industry experience, so they’re going to bring expertise and a lot of know-how to the classroom,” said Steve Locke, principal of the MOCC. “We’re excited that our students will get that kind of experience.”

The MOCC will continue the same focus it’s had in recent years – to improve students’ math and employability skills while teaching them the professional skills necessary for success, Locke said. This fall, 580 students will attend the career center, which is about the same as last year’s enrollment.

Derscheid brings experience as a school nurse at Evart Public Schools to her nursing services classroom. The one-year program prepares students to take a Certified Nurse Aide State Board exam.

Valley, from Reed City, is starting her first year of teaching after working as a fleet supervisor for the Mecosta County Road Commission for about four years.

“I figured I could help with knowing what employers were looking for and giving kids an idea of what the industry has to offer,” she said.

In her diesel technology course, Valley plans to emphasize the importance of a good work ethic and developing her students’ employability skills.

West, who retired from a 27-year career at the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety in March, sees his role of instructor as a “win-win” situation that allows him to share his public safety knowledge with students.

“(Public safety) is what I’ve done all my life,” he said. “But when you’re in an administrative role, you administrate. You don’t get to use those skills all the time. ... (Helping out with the career center’s program last spring) was a lot of fun. I got to use those skills that brought me into the field. With the opportunity to work with young people and (James) Chapman, (public safety paraeducator), again, it was a win-win.”

Leadership will be a focus of West’s program this year.

“Leadership is a big point I want them to strive for,” he added. “It’s fun to see some of them blossom with that.”

Battle brings 16 years of teaching experience to his position in the integrated construction technology, which is a modified version of the building trades program previously offered.

The building trades program allowed students to build a residential house over the course of the program. With the integrated construction technology, students will do more diverse construction work in a workshop lab behind the career center.

“It’s going to be much more comprehensive,” Locke said. “With the changes in state standards, it’s going to be anything from residential ... to road construction, bridge design, architecture and bidding out projects.”

Battle, originally from Paris before he taught in Ionia and Belding, enjoys the variety of the program and seeing students complete a big project.

“I like the change, the variety that we cover,” he said. “(The projects) are something tangible at the end. (Students) can see what they’ve done.”

Locke likes seeing students in any program mature and find their passion during their time at the career center.

“It’s almost like they found their niche,” Locke said. “They’re connecting in ways they might not connect other places. They’ve got some purpose in their education.”