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Employers, meet your future workforce

Problem-solving class works to show options, fill future jobs

Wyoming In their new problem-solving class, students considered two dilemmas. One: many of their peers weren’t aware of all options available that don’t require college degrees. Two: many area businesses are in need of skilled workers and can offer good pay and growth opportunities.

They then designed a solution: directly connect students with employers by hosting a Trades Day. About 120 students learned of the many jobs out there from representatives from nearly 30 different professions. 

Electrician. Steelworker. Plumber. Landscaper. Police officer. Cosmetologist. Real-estate agent. Emergency medical technician. 

The options for good jobs are endless, they learned.

“This is so students can have more options than going to college,” said junior Kenan Tokic, who plans to go to Grand Rapids Community College, but is now also interested in auto mechanics or real estate. “Most kids after high school are lost and don’t know what to do. Trade options are good options.”

Implementing Solutions

The class was designed specifically to help students learn how to address needs in a way that best serves those who have the need. They’ve developed prototypes with various ideas to solve other problems as well,  including student tardiness and lunch options. 

“We have problems in the community. We have to go through all of the steps of design thinking, like empathy and ideating and coming up with solutions for those problems,” Kenan said. 

In planning Trades Day,  held in early December, student groups were assigned industries to contact and invite. Kenan said it’s been very valuable to get to know what’s out there. 

Business representatives shared information on the variety of jobs available in their industries

 “Having different options, knowing there are different jobs out there… It doesn’t take a lot of time to get into them, maybe apprenticeships or internships.”

Business teacher Jon Bushen and art teacher Robin Gransow-Higley teach the semester class, providing different perspectives on how to approach problems and design solutions. Students earn an elective or an English recovery credit.

“We tried to find companies that maybe don’t need a college degree,” Bushen said. “Some of our kids need to look at an alternative for college. It’s not that college isn’t an option, but is there an alternative to college that can get them into a career they enjoy?” 

Bushen said he hears both from students unsure what they want to do after high school, and employers looking for potential workers. 

“We are having the trades reach out to us now, saying they are short on workers,” he said.

Sophomore Kalani Stowe helped out at the American Medical Response table. “Want to become a junior paramedic?” she asked passersby as she handed stickers to students.

“This helps mostly the seniors who don’t know what they want to do when they get out of high school and the ones that don’t want to go to college. It gives them an idea of what they could be doing,” she said. “That helps the community, because it’s making more job opportunities for kids and they are reaching out to everybody. I know there’s an employee shortage right now.”

Paramedic Tim Fonger shared information about his career. He is also an instructor for those training to be paramedics, and he’s noticed a steady decline in people signing up. 

“Right now with everything going on it’s a fairly critical job,” he said. “We have a nationwide shortage in emergency first responders. We are trying to reach out and get people interested in the career field, especially those who like fast-paced environments.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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