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Future health care pros sample multiple career focuses

Tech Center events connect coming workforce & area employers

Kent ISD — The Health Sciences wing at the Kent Career Tech Center buzzed with new information  and questions about different career paths from future health care professionals.

At a recent Trinity Health “High School to Healthcare” event, students rotated through 10 department presentations — including pharmacy, occupational therapy, emergency/trauma and ambulatory care — and participated in hands-on activities.

The event, coordinated by Gregg Isenhoff, Kent ISD work-based learning coordinator, and Gemhyl Kelly, Trinity’s workforce development and student engagement partner, was one of many that are part of Kent ISD’s Career and Talent Development initiative.

It has been only a year since Kent ISD launched the initiative, which is focused on increasing career exploration, training and work-based learning opportunities for students throughout the region, Superintendent Ron Koehler said when the program was launched.

Sue Gardner, assistant superintendent of career and talent development, said the team has connected with more than 250 employers who are looking to partner with students and schools.

“It has been wonderful working with all of these businesses in helping to make it easier for them to connect with our students and schools,” Gardner said.

‘Today is giving me more exposure to options and opportunities for the future.’

— Lowell High School junior Ella Acheson

Broken into two parts — Career Readiness, led by Cary Stamas, and Workforce Development, led by Ryan Graham — the initiative has been involved in a number of programs, such as CareerPrep 2030. Workforce Development has teamed up with community partners, such as Trinity Health, and Forest Hills Public Schools, which recently hosted the Path to Pro Skilled Trade event. 

Workforce Development also will host the Kent County Cup esports challenge on April 27 for students with technology interests.

“Having a department focused on building relationships and understanding the needs in the community has enabled us to leverage those business and community partnerships to build career showcases students are interested in attending,” said Krista Harmon, Kent ISD workforce consultant.

More Interest, More Engagement

Tony Brownell, owner of Spartan Contracting LLC, who was part of Forest Hills’ Path to Pro, said not only did this year’s event draw more people, but that students were more engaged in the hands-on careers featured.

“The students were really interested and they were listening,” Brownell said. “As for the increased attendance, I think it has to do with parents warming up more to the idea that these careers are well paid and (that) a person can become an expert in a particular area.”

Jon Gregory, director of Forest Hills secondary services and programming, said the district has hosted the Path to Pro event the past few years, the last two at the tech center. That space, and working with Workforce Development, allowed for seven new businesses, with attendance between 85 to 100 students — at least double last year’s turnout, Gregory said. 

Tony Brownell, owner of Spartan Contracting LLC, shows Forest Hills Central ninth-grader Ethan Curtiss some of the industrial tools he works with

“The goal is to get exposure to juniors and seniors who are able to enter the workforce,” he said, “and for seventh- through 10th-graders to get excited about the opportunities that are out there and understand that these jobs can be careers or help pay for college.” 

That was definitely what Forest Hills Eastern eighth-grader Elliot Kinstner was doing as she went from booth to booth checking out the offerings. Elliot said she attended the West Michigan Construction Institute last summer and fell in love with welding.

“There is a certain amount of detail involved and a lot of focus in the field of welding,” she said. As for the event: “It was pretty fun visiting all the options and trying everything.”

Bringing Opportunities to Students

Exposure to the health field also was what the Trinity Health’s High School to Healthcare event was about, said Leslie Kirschenbauer, a Kent ISD health sciences instructor. 

Before the event, students chose three departments of interest, which helped them focus on their main interest but also expand their awareness, Kirschenbauer said.

“Trinity Health gives snapshots of different departments throughout the day,” she said. “You don’t get this much exposure to this many departments in one place.”

After sitting in on the surgical services session, Lowell High School junior Ella Acheson said she learned that different programs had different requirements, which will be useful to consider when planning the next steps of her education.

“I want to be an Army surgeon, so today is giving me more exposure to options and opportunities for the future,” said Ella, who also visited Trinity Health’s cardiovascular & transplant and neurosciences departments. “I started out wanting to join as a nurse, but (learned) I wanted to do more.

“We watched a video of an open-heart surgery in class, so that got me thinking about cardio, and there is so much we don’t know about the brain,” she said.

Reporter Alexis Stark contributed to this story.

Read more from Kent ISD: 
Tech Center introduces virtual anatomy table
New partnership brings health care career choice to students

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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