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Linda Mah
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Career Lunch & Learn Explores Jobs

KRESA Program Helps KPS Students Learn About Careers

Kalamazoo Central High School students expanded their knowledge of career options last spring as part of the Kalamazoo RESA Career Readiness Initiative, which launched a series of “Lunch & Learn” sessions for students.

Students attending the last meeting in the series enjoyed a free pizza lunch and met Darrell Browning, an electrical customer field solutions supervisor for Consumers Energy in Grand Rapids.

He told the students that the company provided the opportunity for career advancement. He started as a meter reader with the company before moving into gas and electrical distribution. The company employs 280 workers in Kalamazoo County. Accompanying Browning were Angela Borton and Raymond Ryan, who is a Kalamazoo Central graduate.

Other speakers who visited KPS high schools as part of the initiative included the director of the Kalamazoo Valley Community College culinary education program; the education director at Bronson Medical Labs; president of Forrest Company, a tool and machine manufacturer; a United Airlines pilot, and the human resources manager for W. Soule, a sheet metal fabricator.

Anne Smith, the Career Readiness Coordinator for KRESA, said the program promotes self-awareness and career exploration opportunities for Kalamazoo County students, ranging from kindergarteners to high school seniors; works with teachers to enhance curriculum so students understand the connection between school and careers; and coordinates with local businesses and school districts to create learning opportunities.

The program can be tailored to meet the needs of different districts, Smith said. Options through the program include: “train-the-trainer” and professional development opportunities for elementary, middle school, and high school teachers to learn ways to integrate career information into academics; coordinating externships for teachers and school counselors which offer opportunities for school personnel to visit workplace and connect academics and skills to jobs; career-related morning announcements for middle schools; and the Lunch & Learn events for middle schools and high schools.

“Kids need to know what they can be before they have to choose what they want to be,” said Career Readiness coordinator Kristen Garceau.

During his visit to KC, Browning encouraged students to explore skilled trades in addition to thinking about going to college. Many of those jobs have excellent salaries, high job placement and provide an opportunity to work with your hands.

Consumers Energy offers several training programs, including a two-year school-to-work program at schools such as Alpena and Lansing community colleges. The company also offers a four-year apprenticeship program, which pays students while they learn to be an electrical linesman for the company.

Outside of encouraging them to explore more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses, Browning told students to focus on the basics: stay in school, get good grades, stay away from drugs, maintain a clean driving record, network, and ask questions.

“This is a big step, just being here to learn,” Browning told the students.

KRESA is looking for local business and industry partners to connect classrooms and careers. For more information, contact KRESE/EFE Career Readiness at (269) 250-9300 or email anne.smith@kresa.org or kristen.garceau@kresa.org.

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