Kivela getting involved in technical middle college

One of Upper Michigan’s state lawmakers is getting involved in an effort to create a new vocational education program for Marquette-area high school students.

The Marquette Alger Technical Education Committee is trying to create a technical middle college program for Marquette. It’s a five-year program leading to both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree or technical certification, and it would be free of charge for students. The committee has included State Representative John Kivela in its meetings.

“I think it’s important that these kids have access to vocational and technical education,” Kivela said. “To me, it’s something at the state level that we walked away from many years ago, and we’re starting to see the results of it.”

Those results include skilled workers leaving technical trades as they retire without enough young people coming in to replace them.

“When I go around the (109th Michigan House) district, people are always saying ‘we need more jobs; you need to put us to work’,” Kivela said. “We have high unemployment in the Upper Peninsula, but yet, when I go to manufacturers and I meet with contractors, their number-one complaint is, ‘we can’t find skilled labor; we can’t find bodies, trained or trainable, to fill these positions’. That’s a disconnect in education.”

Michigan already has 29 technical middle college programs. Two of them are in the Upper Peninsula; Escanaba and Calumet each have one.