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Michael Minton, 20, can boast a turnaround story that took him from high school dropout to gainful employment, and he’s a prime example of the 54 young adults who have found success in a model program in Muskegon.

“I had no plan for my future, and now I have a diploma and a job I really like,” Minton says.

Linked Muskegon made the difference for Minton, who enrolled in the free, 18-week, adult education and training program that helps employers fill entry level positions with qualified workers in welding, machining and health.

Through Linked Muskegon, students like Minton have earned their high school diploma or GED, and received specific training in welding, machining and health at the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center. Students have also developed their employability skills, and at the end of the program, they have the opportunity to meet face to face with local employers to discuss their new experiences and skills. Once hired, many students also receive further on-the-job training through West Michigan Works! who is able to offset training costs for the employers.

So why the successful turnarounds? One important difference maker are the program “navigators” who are able to connect in a personal way as coaches, cheerleaders, and counselors while holding participants accountable. This creative approach has been a game changer in the lives of these young people who must overcome barriers like housing, transportation, childcare and past mistakes. While getting a job is important, the program navigators empower participants to develop into better community members as they improve their self-esteem, learn to get along better with others, control their emotions, and stay out of trouble.

Another powerful component is the connection between local employers and the Career Tech Center instructors. Employers already know and trust the instructors they rely on for trained high school graduates. With Linked Muskegon, they are able to base hiring decisions on known attendance patterns and performance. After months of training, the certified instructors know what each student is capable of and what further training is needed.

Another part of this innovative approach involves partners working collaboratively to support local students with graduation, training, and developing employability skills. They include local employers, adult education programs, the Career Tech Center, the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, and West Michigan Works. Hats off to state Sen. Goeff Hansen for pushing to fund this life-changing program as a pilot.

Let’s see more.

Kristin Tank is public information officer for Muskegon Area Intermediate School District and president of the Michigan School Public Relations Association.

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