At the Health Sciences Early College Academy, students practiced drawing blood on a fake arm, providing range-of-motion therapy and taking one another’s blood pressure. They are training to be nurses, doctors, physician assistants and physical therapists.
With passionate reasons for entering the health-care field, the students may someday staff area hospitals and clinics just blocks from where they now study — and they have reason to believe their future is bright in West Michigan. According to workforce development program Michigan Works! and its “Jobs in Demand List 2015,” jobs in health care will grow from 16 to 28 percent during the six-year period between 2012-2018 .
|Expected job growth from 2012 to 2018|
Source: Michigan Works!
Now students are getting a valuable peek at the industry through the Kent Career Tech Center program located at the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids.
“Staying in the Grand Rapids area will be nice,” said Megan Bolt, a junior from Caledonia High School who plans to become a physician assistant. “Working with people here, you get a personal relationship with them and you get to know them.”
Their preparation could pay off. Dual-enrollment programs are allowing them to graduate high school with more than a semester’s worth of college credits. Therapeutic students earn their Certified Nursing Assistant certificate, which helps them get entry-level positions at hospitals and nursing homes. Students have job-shadowed and researched careers with help from local professionals.
Kathi VanManen, a nurse and career tech specialist at Health Sciences Early College Academy, said the possibilities are many.
“Grand Rapids is a growing, growing area for health care, so there are lot and lots of jobs available and new opportunities,” VanManen said. “Rather than just be doctors and nurses, there are so many more things they can do, all part of health care.”
Besides health care, according to the Michigan Works! list, other growing fields are information technology, manufacturing, energy, services and agribusiness (see infobox).
Aligning the Future Workforce
Preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow is key to filling the high-wage and high-demand jobs in burgeoning industries, said Jarrad Grandy, Kent ISD director of Career Readiness.
“We want to give as many students as possible early experience so they really get a chance to know what they are choosing when it comes to careers,” Grandy said.
The Career Readiness department works closely with economic development agency The Right Place Program and Michigan Works!, and students can take advantage of many opportunities to find the career best for them. The department lines students up with job shadowing, industry tours and alternative Spring Break opportunities, during which they spend time meeting professionals at local businesses in growing fields, Grandy said.
Schools are also offering cutting-edge classes to prepare students for industry demands. In a new mobile-technology class at Byron Center High School, students merge art and computer coding to create augmented reality. (That means an app scans a picture hanging on the wall, and it comes to life onscreen in surprising ways.) They are also designing web sites and making apps.
Kyle Powers, a senior in the class, said he plans to use his knowledge in the cyber security industry, hopefully in Grand Rapids. The class gives students a sense of how IT is technical, creative and limitless. “It’s about what the future is going to be like,” Kyle said. “This class helps students grow and get a feel of, if they are going into the technology world, what area they will fit the best in.”
That kind of career exploration helps students find what they like, don’t like and how they can turn their interests into a rewarding career, Grandy said. “The key advice for kids is never, ever, ever believe you have to make a choice between passion and profits, and always keep the end goal in mind,” Grandy added. “Look at things you like to do and your skills, talents and interests, and put yourself in the position to have experiences in areas they can be applied.”