An initiative by the Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District, known as Career Tech to Careers, is celebrating the decision of high school graduates to enter the work force after earning their diploma – specifically those students whose high school careers included Career and Technical Education classes.
On Feb. 26, 2020, ISD staff held a Career Tech to Careers signing event with two recent local graduates at Great Lakes Energy’s (GLE) headquarters in Boyne City. Caid Schroeder and Hunter Sparks are now employed full-time as fiber fielders, working with the electric cooperative’s new Truestream fiber network.
Both young men took the Energy Fundamentals: Lineworker Emphasis program at Boyne City High School last year during their senior year at their respective schools; Caid is a 2019 graduate of Boyne City, and Hunter is a 2019 graduate of Boyne Falls. The career tech class prepared them with the skills they needed to land jobs at GLE.
“It has been better than I expected. Everyone here is like family,” said Hunter, whose grandfather was a lineman when the company was known as Top o’ Michigan. “It is a great place to work.”
Both said they enjoy working outside and taking on the challenges of surveying lines, poles and meters for advancing the Truestream fiber network project that is bringing high-speed internet to rural GLE members. They work an average of 60 hours a week.
“They’re both doing great,” said Bill White, Fiber Program Manager. “The lineworker program gave them foundational knowledge of electrical systems right out of high school, which is so helpful. It made the training process go very smoothly.”
Caid, the Boyne City student, said he was still undecided about his future plans during his junior year when he decided to check out the lineworker program, which was just getting started that year. “I really like the hands-on work and being outside,” he said. “It’s definitely like a family here. Everyone is very straightforward here, which I like. I see myself continuing to work for Great Lakes Energy, and I would like to eventually move up through the organization.”
Their teacher, James Rincon, who is also a lineman at Great Lakes Energy, said both showed good potential during the class. Great Lakes Energy is a key partner in the program, which takes place at Boyne City High School and the GLE training grounds just outside of Boyne City. “They were excellent students and both love the outdoors, and it’s good to see them with this opportunity,” said Rincon. “They are the first two students who have been hired full-time as a result of the class.”
Like all CTE classes, the class is open to any student in any Char-Em district. The lineworker course has drawn students from north of Pellston, Boyne Falls, Boyne City, East Jordan, Charlevoix, Petoskey and Central Lake. “We’ve continued to grow the numbers and next year we are adding a drone component to the program,” said Karen Jarema, Boyne City High School Principal. “Now is the time for interested students to apply for next year’s class.”
Jim Rummer, Career and Technical Education Director for Char-Em ISD, said the Career Tech to Careers initiative was started to recognize students who followed the roadmap of career tech activities through elementary, middle and high school, which has led them directly into employment in a career. The Mansfield Family Foundation has offered its support to the Career Tech to Careers initiative with a grant that will fund gift cards to students to purchase equipment and/or clothing necessary for their new careers.
Char-Em ISD will share Career Tech to Careers signing events as they occur throughout the year; stay tuned for additional recognitions of graduates who demonstrate direct links from high school Career and Technical Education training to careers.
Pictured celebrating a recent Career Tech to Careers signing event are two recent local graduates, Hunter Sparks (front row, second from left) and Caid Schroeder, now fiber optic fielders with Great Lakes Energy. They are pictured with Bill White, Fiber Program Manager (front row, far left) and James Rincon (far right), lineworker class instructor and GLE lineman; and (back row, from left) Cynthia Pineda, Boyne Falls superintendent; Melissa McGuiness, Boyne Falls guidance counselor; Dugald Dunlop, GLE Fielding QC Manager; Jim Rummer, Director of Career and Technical Education for Char-Em ISD; Derek Maki, lineworker course instructor and GLE lineman; Karen Jarema, Boyne City High School Principal; and Patty Hellebuyck, Career Preparation Specialist, Char-Em ISD.