Pontiac Daily Leader: LACC tour seems enlightening to Rep. Kinzinger
“I think it’s important for our government officials to have a handle on what is going on here and an opportunity to see the students in action during a regular day,” Graves said. “For us to talk about it with him is one thing, but to be able to have the students and instructors speak to him is a big deal. So, we’re going to visit a few of our programs and share some information on dual-credit certifications and things that we’re trying to provide for our students.”
Graves said the career center has actively invited legislators to tour its facilities, but sometimes the officials can’t fit those appointments into their schedules. Kinzinger’s office reached out to the center last week and said, “we couldn’t make it before, but the congressman has an opening in his schedule and we’d love to come for a visit.”
“I think it’s great that everyone is starting to see there are a lot of different pathways towards a successful career,” Graves said. “While college is still a great option for many students, there are some that know sitting in an office is not going to be productive for them. So, instead of discouraging them, we encourage them to pursue trades training.”
Graves said enrollment is up around 25-30 students this year. She said it is always interesting to see how certain programs fluctuate in enrollment from year-to-year.
“Last year was really big for engineering and this year there is a big push for culinary,” Graves said. “One thing I am proud of is that we have all six schools in Livingston County coming to the LACC. They are committed to our program even though it is a financial burden to their districts and we are happy to see them providing these opportunities for their students.”
Upon Kinzinger’s arrival, Graves provided a light breakfast made by culinary students. While he ate, Graves gave him a brief overview of the program, which is currently in its 50th year. Graves spoke briefly about the dual-credit opportunities and certifications that students can obtain through the center. She also spoke briefly about the increase in enrollment. Graves noted the success that students have had through the SkillsUSA organization.
After her presentation, Kinzinger said it was great to see interest in the trade programs coming back. He mentioned that in the late 1990s and 2000s, the focus on trades shifted toward college readiness.
“I get dozens of calls every summer for a workforce,” Graves responded. “The current workforce is retiring and we need to ensure we have the people who are interested in properly fixing our cars and building our homes.
“We’re glad to see our enrollment numbers are up because our feeder schools are very small and a lot of them are losing enrollment. To continue to grow, when they are losing enrollment, says a lot about the superintendents and their commitment to the programming offered at this facility.”
Noting that the center had been open for 50 years, Kinzinger asked Graves about the fluctuation in student enrollment at the center in the early 2000s.
“Those were hard years for us, especially 2008-2009,” Graves responded. “Money was short and schools were really struggling. Three of the feeder schools had already stopped sending students and a fourth was on the way out the door. So, we did a large campaign to show people what they are getting. That’s when the dual college credits and certifications came into focus.”
Graves took the congressman to meet with instructors and students in programs such as culinary, computer networking, automotive, welding, law enforcement and early-childhood education. Kinzinger gave each instructor his attention and then asked a few questions to the students.
“When I came for this visit, I hoped I would see a number of students engaged in their programs and focused on what they want to do with their future at a young age,” Kinzinger said. “What I want to do, is take this story back to Washington, D.C., when we get back into session, and say, ‘how can the federal government partner to not only make this program bigger and better, but do it in other places.’”
After his visit, the Congressman commended the LACC for its focus on trade occupations.
“In the past, we’ve basically looked down on career education in favor of four-year universities. What we’re seeing, is that there is a great and often-missed opportunity to make a great living in a lot of these career and technical vocations. So, it’s great to see it and it’s good to see the kids here engaged and energetic and doing what they love.”
Kinzinger credited the LACC for its early pursuit of trades education.
“The fact that this has been a regional program for the past 50 years is amazing. Back in the 1960s, people weren’t talking about regionalizing these types of programs. So, the fact that this area was able to do that is a big deal.”
The original article, with videos and photos from the Congressman's visit, can be found on the Pontiac Daily Leader website here.