2018-08-19 / Editorial

ISD to businesses: Make time for students

Lapeer County Intermediate School District Superintendent Steve Zott issued a challenge to community and business leaders who were gathered at The County Press office on Thursday for View Newspaper Group’s quarterly Coffee & Connections event.

In his brief presentation to those gathered, Zott had first outlined the district’s programs that create opportunities for local businesses to partner with the ISD to give students a leg up in their career planning. By bringing students into their workplaces for exposure and experience, Zott explained, business owners and managers not only help students plot a career path but can also develop a pipeline for the business’ future employees.

The ISD work experience programs range from a few hours of job shadowing to several hours a week of unpaid internships to more extensive paid co-op work experiences.

Zott’s challenge to Lapeer County’s business, nonprofit organization and government leaders is simple: Help give area students real, live workplace experiences to better prepare them for life after school.

Accepting that challenge comes with a big return on investment — especially for local businesses that struggle to fill vacant positions and for local communities that see too many of our high school and postsecondary graduates leave Lapeer County for jobs elsewhere. Engaging with our high school students now means a greater likelihood of developing qualified job candidates who will stay in Lapeer County to work, buy homes, pay taxes and raise their own families here.

The Lapeer County Intermediate School District performs a number of critical functions beyond placing students in work experience programs. The ISD serves the local school districts of Almont, Dryden, Imlay City, Lapeer and North Branch. As Zott told the group on Thursday, he could speak for several hours to explain in detail all of those functions that include providing pupil accounting services for the local districts, operating the Education and Technology Center in Attica Township, providing adult education and high-school completion programs and administering a host of early childhood programs.

But Zott knew he had an audience that was ripe for his challenge of increased community engagement with high school students and he focused on that. We could tell his message resonated with the crowd at Coffee & Connections by the head nods and murmurs of agreement during Zott’s presentation.

Afterward, Zott and View Newspaper Group Publisher Wes Smith shared their own high school work experiences that led them down their career paths. Both acknowledged that without those early opportunities afforded by local businesses, they would have had a more difficult road to a successful career. They also noted that landing those experiences has become more challenging for younger generations as both education and business climates changed.

But Zott and his peers are working to change the culture and rules on the education side to allow students more flexibility in their schedules and curricular requirements that will allow students to be “at work” without harming their school performance record.

Now, it is up to our business and community leaders to accept Zott’s challenge of creating opportunities for those students by devoting the time and resources needed for making room for students in our places of work.

That is a relatively small investment that can pay a big return for the businesses and for our communities. For information on student work experience opportunities, contact Robert Odell, coordinator of transition and career services at the Lapeer County ISD. Call Odell at 810-664-1124, Ext. 4160 or email him at rodell@lapeerisd.org.

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