Program molding brighter futures
While some people have trouble finding good-paying jobs after graduating from high school and even college, Brandywine High School students Al Ferguson and Kaytlyn Metz are not worried about their futures.
Both already have good jobs that could one day turn into great careers. And both say they have these opportunities because they are enrolled in the school’s machine shop program.
“I probably never would have realized I could do any of this and it is nice knowing I can,” said Metz, who studies in Brandywine’s machine shop. “A lot of people go out of high school not knowing what they want to do with their life. I feel like I have a really good idea what I want to do.”
Metz, a junior, works about 20 hours a week at C&S Machine Products in Buchanan.
She got the job in October after a conversation with Brandywine machine shop teacher Chris Inman about area employment opportunities. He told her C&S was taking applications.
“I applied and a week later I got a phone call saying, ‘You got the job,’” she said. “I was like, ‘cool.’”
The “coolest” part about Metz situation is that C&S would pay for her education after high school if she were to be accepted into the company’s apprenticeship program.
Metz remains undecided about her future, but knows it will likely include a career in machining and/or engineering.
“I am debating whether I want to go to a four-year school,” she said.
While Metz is still planning her course of action after high school, fellow machine shop student Al Ferguson already knows what he wants to do.
The Brandywine senior is in an apprenticeship program with Hanson Mold, of St. Joseph, that will pay him to work and pay for his education at Lake Michigan College.
Ferguson said he was offered the apprenticeship approximately three weeks ago after a Hanson representative visited the machine shop class at Brandywine.
“It was kind of a surprise,” Ferguson said. “I never thought a company would actually reach out to me, to students at the school.”
Metz and Ferguson are just two of many finding opportunities through career and technical education programs like Brandywine’s machine shop, according to Inman.
“These companies are cyring for people right now,” he said. “They are looking for the younger generation to come work for them.”
Last week, Brandywine hosted a regional competition of the Michigan Industrial and Technology Education Society (MITES), a collection of CTE students from the counties of Berrien, Cass, Van Buren and St. Joseph.
Students worked since the beginning of the year on projects ranging from machining to wood working to computer aided design (CAD) and entered them into the competition.
Local business professionals judged the work on Thursday.
Inman said approximately 25 representatives from tool and die and machining shops in Berrien County looked at all the projects, which were housed in the school gymnasium Friday morning. Many of those representatives, he said, left business cards on projects that impressed them.
“That is so huge for these kids,” he said. “That is how sought after they are.”
As for the regional competition, Inman said 53 of Brandywine’s 83 entries placed in the top four, qualifying those entries to move on to the state MITES event in two weeks.
Metz and Ferguson both had first place entries.
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