Over the past two years, the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development (MCPED) has been working with partners to explore and create a foundation for implementing college and career academies at Romeo High School with support from the Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) network. The result will be standing up various academies that emphasize career exploration, experiential learning and college readiness rather than perfecting the art of standardized test taking. While Ford has NGL communities throughout the country, this will be the first designated district in the state of Michigan.
Our department sees this effort as a way to prepare the next generation to meet workforce demands. This transformation is currently in the planning phase, and implementation is scheduled for the 2019 school year. MCPED serves as the community convening organization. As such, some of our responsibilities include supporting successful government, academic and business collaboration; building credibility in the community and gaining support; and focusing on business and community development.
Over 50 stakeholders make up the program’s steering committee. Our department helps advise this committee about current industry trends and in-demand jobs and promotes the county’s 10 targeted industries (automotive, advanced manufacturing, defense, food and agriculture, health care and social assistance, information technology and cybersecurity, logistics and warehousing, professional services, and retail) to businesses, community organizations, teachers, parents and academia.
By examining the local area, the businesses located there, who is hiring and what kind of talent is needed, a determination can be made as to what career pathways ought to be offered for that specific area. The steering committee is examining these options and will help determine the top career academies best suited to offer in the Romeo community.
While core studies will still be taught in the classroom, they will be incorporated into the larger career pathways. For example, a student in the automotive academy would learn the futuristic technologies of autonomous vehicles through studying a blend of information technology, robotics, computer science and engineering. The result is that students will receive extended hands-on exposure to different careers, empowering them to make informed career choices.
In addition to Ford, other local businesses are a necessary part of this framework. They offer externships to the high school teachers, enabling them to spend time at the business so they can better understand the industry and teach it to students. Industry experts are also welcomed to teach in the classroom, working hand in hand with teachers.
The ultimate goal is to build a model for other schools to replicate, with eventually every district in Macomb County offering some form of college and career academy.
If your business is interested in attending steering committee meetings, or if you are a school looking to enter the exploratory phase of implementing the NGL framework, please contact our department at (586) 469-5285.
Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in business outreach and communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.