Building project at Pellston schools by Career Tech students, for Career Tech students!

Char-Em ISD-Northwest Michigan Works partnership will provide students with $14 per hour to build facility for fellow students

A unique opportunity in Pellston will have students and young adults from around the region building a facility to house a new career and technical education class at Pellston High School. And the student-builders will be paid for their efforts – $14 per hour for the 8-week project.

Northwest Michigan Works! has partnered with the Char-Em Intermediate School District to provide this new opportunity for students and young adults interested in exploring the construction trades career pathway. The summer work program begins June 21, 2021, Monday-Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Up to 12 students between the ages of 16 and 20, from any Char-Em ISD district, will spend the 8 weeks learning and applying foundational constructional skills through a pre-apprenticeship program while they construct a new 1,740-square-foot building that will house the PowerSports Technology class launching in fall 2021.

“It takes a lot of confidence and courage to have a vision and start a project like this during this uncertain year,” said Jim Rummer, Director of Career and Technical Education for Char-Em ISD. “I commend Pellston’s leadership for saying ‘Let’s do this!’ when approached with the idea.”

Char-Em ISD and Northwest Michigan Works often work together to create career and college readiness opportunities for students. Lisa Schut, Regional Director for Northwest Michigan Works!, noted that a new grant in the agency’s Young Professionals program became available last year, but was not able to be utilized due to COVID-19. This year, it was once again available to fund a program such as this one, but it had a tight application deadline.

“In typical Char-Em fashion, the whole team pulled the grant application together in time,” said Lisa. “We know we can always count on Char-Em.”

The Young Professionals grant allows the student-workers to receive the $14 per hour pay while they work on the new building and build their resumes of construction knowledge and talent. “This is intended to really prepare the students who are interested in construction with the foundational skills that will make them more competitive,” she said. “They are really immersed in the project and by the end of it, they will have a very good understanding of the profession and it could be the seed that sets them on this as a career path.”

The partnership also allows the students to participate in a one-week job shadow with local construction employers after the completion of the building. “The instructor of the building project will monitor the job shadow placements at least twice per week, reinforcing employability skill application, and ensuring safety guidelines are in place,” said Tory Thrush, Career and College Readiness Consultant for Char-Em ISD.

At the conclusion of the build, each student will receive an extensive tool kit and work boots they can use during their job shadow experience and to keep after the program is completed. Thrush noted the young builders will attain at least 20 competencies from the combination of training and experience, “all of which will increase their marketability with employers and enable them to quickly adapt to a specialty track once employed.”

Pellston Superintendent Stephen Seelye said the partnership and program are an investment in Pellston Public Schools and regional students. “When we were approached about participating in this project, we saw the many benefits – providing students in this area with a terrific summer wage and important employability skills, and construction of a new building for students by students,” Seelye said. “When our PowerSports program begins in the fall, it will be really neat to know that the building housing the program was built by other students in the skilled trades.”

Students who would like to participate in the program need to meet Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) eligibility, such as having an IEP or 504. They will need to fill out an application and provide at least one reference. For complete details on how to apply, contact your school counselor or for those who have graduated up to age 20, contact Tory Thrush at or call (231) 340-3432.


CAPTION:  Pictured are construction trades students from Pellston High School, Char-Em ISD staff, and representatives from Pellston schools and Northwest Michigan Works! The group gathered for a recent groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the new building, which will be located at Pellston Public Schools property near the high school.

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