UCS gets grant, benefits students on high-tech path

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 26, 2018

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A state grant will help Utica Community Schools boost production in educating students for high-tech industries, school officials said.

UCS recently received a $400,000 Michigan Department of Education Career and Technology Innovation and Equipment grant. 

The grant will help subsidize a new UCS program to get students ready to join the career fields of manufacturing, automation, design and engineering.

In the fall, UCS will debut the Stevenson Center for Manufacturing, Automation, Design and Engineering, aka Stevenson MADE, at Stevenson High School.

The program will offer specialized programming over all four years of a high school student’s academic career and will mix in manufacturing concepts into other subjects, such as math, English, social studies and science.

The goal is for enrolled students to be eligible for college credit, certifications and career experience. Local companies are partnering with UCS to help offer that workplace experience, district officials said.

“Stevenson MADE works hand in hand with business and post-secondary educational leaders to give our students a competitive advantage for the high-skills, high-demand and high-wage jobs that will grow our region’s economy,” Superintendent Christine Johns said in a statement.

School officials said they will use the grant money to improve existing engineering tools and to add automation tools.

Stevenson MADE will join other specialty programs within UCS, such as the Utica Academy for International Studies, the Utica Center for Science and Industry, and the Utica Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology.

Kim Charland, director of secondary programs at UCS, expressed her enthusiasm over the new Stevenson MADE program as an academy model that will encompass career and technical education programs. She said the goal is for students to become skilled and employable so they “can walk right into a manufacturing company and start working for them.”

“They’re going to choose a major and a minor,” she said. “We’re actually going to be working with our industry partners on co-op opportunities and externships.”

Charland said the Stevenson MADE program will supplement the district’s existing career and technical education programs that steer high schoolers into considering fields such as health sciences, welding and marketing.

“We have 12 different pathways that we offer our students throughout the district that they can choose from in their CTE course to excel in,” she explained.

Charland said many students begin the CTE program when they become juniors, though some start as sophomores. Through the program’s CTE pathways, students can be certified in certain fields of expertise, and they can participate in co-ops with the help of local industry partners.

“Predominantly, the students are taught by CTE instructors that are experts in that field,” she said. “In order to be a CTE teacher, you have to be up to date in our industry. It’s pretty interesting. It’s pretty dynamic to watch. … The teachers have to be state of the art, on their game.”

Chane Street, a 2015 graduate of Stevenson High School, credited the CTE program with helping shape his college and career trajectory.

He said he started in the CTE design and engineering program in the second semester of 10th grade, and that allowed him to get a background in computer-aided design, or CAD, software. That kind of training, along with learning how to use a 3-D printer, eventually equipped him to excel in a co-op program, he explained.

Street said he currently works at an engineering firm while attending Macomb Community College.

“The CTE program, it definitely exposed me and allowed me to not only experience the design side, but also allowed me to experience the manufacturing side,” he said.

Find out more about UCS by visiting www.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1000.