STEPHENSON — Menominee County Intermediate School District (ISD) students may be given the opportunity to take more career-driven classes as early as Fall 2019. Steve Martin, superintendent of the Menominee County ISD, gave a full update on a grant program which could make this possible at the Stephenson Area Public Schools Board of Education meeting on Wednesday.

The Marshall Plan is a designated grant system implemented by the State of Michigan to fund educational programs which help students become career-ready by the time they graduate high school. The state’s website states that, “The Marshall Plan for Talent is a revolutionary partnership between educators, employers and other stakeholders to transform Michigan’s talent pipeline and redesign the ways we invest, develop and attract talent in our state.”

Martin said three programs were proposed in the Upper Peninsula: Two through Northern Michigan University and one from Michigan Tech. However, only the NMU programs have received funding through the Marshall Program.

NMU’s two programs can be used by the ISD school districts that have signed up with the program prior to the college applying for the grant money, Martin explained after the meeting.

The first program, “NMU: Manufacturing Consortium,” focuses on helping students learn more about manufacturing careers and potentially take classes that would help them achieve career goals in manufacturing.

“This particular program lines up really well with Menominee County,” Martin told the board. There are several potential career opportunities in and around Menominee County in the manufacturing field, and Martin said it is important to ensure students know about these careers early on.

Martin added that there are already programs in place where engineers, welders and other manufacturers tour the schools and talk about their jobs with students, but with the Marshall Plan funding, schools can ensure these programs continue and even reach students at a younger age.

“We want to get students thinking about these career paths early on, so they realize ‘hey, there are jobs right here in Menominee County I can pursue when I graduate,’” Marin said after the meeting. 

The grant money could also fund classes which, Martin hopes, could give students the opportunity to graduate high school with certification in these fields so they may go straight into the workforce.

Martin said he is particularly excited about the second Marshall Plan-funded NMU program, the “NMU Cybersecurity Consortium.”

This program is designed to “increase the computer science curriculum to include training for Cybersecurity.” Schools throughout the UP could access servers provided by NMU to practice, train and learn about cybersecurity and networking.

“We’d be teaching these kids to be hackers,” Martin explained. “It’s kind of funny, because we’re going to teach these kids to break the security systems we have in place so they learn how to build them.”

Students would need to remotely access servers provided by NMU for cybersecurity exercises. Martin said it’s important that schools use the NMU servers, which are designated for this purpose.

“We’re teaching these kids to be hackers. We can’t use our own servers, it could mess a lot of things up,” he said.

Students in the cybersecurity program can potentially leave high school certified to enter the career field. Cybersecurity is a career path that would almost guarantee students employment regardless of location, Martin said.

“Cybersecurity is huge right now,” he said. “People don’t realize how important it is, but it’s something that is needed by almost every field.”

The Marshall Plan funding would also include personal development instruction for staff, equipment and other areas that would be needed for these programs. However, at the moment, NMU and the UP school districts it’s partnering with are not sure how much funding will be granted to them or how it will be distributed.

“There are a lot of questions right now,” Martin said. “It’s really early on and a lot of things are up in the air, but we’re working on figuring that out.”

More information on the Marshall Plan for Talent can be found at the state’s official website, https://www.michigan.gov/ted/0,5863,7-336-85008---,00.html.