(Photo by John Cook) Christine Jobson and her son, Derrick Jobson, look over the prizes offered at the Nov. 6 “Next Step Palooza” at Vassar High School. The Jobsons live in Fremont Township and Derrick Jobson is a Vassar High School junior pondering his career choice.

Vassar High greases skids for skilled-trades students

Some students attended Vassar High School’s “Next Step Palooza” to prepare for college or the military, but Derrick Jobson wants to find a job.

“I didn’t really have a clue about (a career) until recently because I didn’t take tech classes, but I’m now in tech so I’m focusing more on welding, and I’m getting better at it, so I’m trying to find something, a good place that will help me get the experience and training I need for welding,” said Jobson, 16, a Vassar High junior attending the Nov. 6 event with his mother, Christine Jobson.

Derrick Jobson began taking classes at the Tuscola Technology Center in Caro this school year, and has conferred with Scott Hewitt, transition coordinator for the “Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates” program at Vassar High School.

“We just talked to Mr. Hewitt about some internships, more of a trade school type of thing,” Christine Jobson said.

“Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates” operates affiliates at about 35 locations in Michigan, including Vassar High School.

Hewitt holds one of “three grant-funded positions that help kids with post-secondary options” at Vassar High, according to Willie Beck, the school’s guidance counselor.

“Scott is doing a great job of bridging the gap with skilled trades,” Beck said. “He’s getting (skilled-trades representatives) into the school and he’s already taken kids on two different field trips, and that will continue as well. Job-shadowing is big. He’s creating relationships with those folks.”

Welders earn from $12.93 an hour to $24.23 an hour in Detroit, with the median hourly pay at $16.48, according to payscale.com.

The average age of a licensed electrician, meanwhile, is 55, according to capitalelectriceducation.com, a website for an electrical-parts distributor. 

“With many in the industry approaching 60 years old, a fresh new workforce will be needed in the near future,” according to Capital Electric, which offers classes and seminars for prospective electricians.

Hewitt said the Nov. 6 “Next Step Palooza” was a much bigger event than last year’s event that focused primarily on helping students and parents prepare a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

“We’re helping open students’ eyes to trade apprenticeships, certificate programs and the military has a bigger presence this year,” Hewitt said. “This is to help some of the kids that don’t feel like another four years of sitting in the classroom is for them. We’re helping them find a path to a sustainable income. 

“There has to be something between minimum wage and $100,000 in school debt.”

Some students at “Next Step Palooza” hope to reduce debt by receiving scholarships.

Saginaw Valley State University offers incoming freshmen four scholarships that depend on a student’s grade-point average and ACT and SAT scores: the Founder’s Scholarship ($5,000), the Dean’s Scholarship ($4,000), the Cardinal Scholarship ($3,000) and the University Scholarship ($2,000).

“The dollar amounts for those scholarships have actually increased,” said Ivy Braden, an SVSU admissions representative meeting with students and parents at the Vassar event.

“That’s a lot of money,” said Nathan Foess, 18, a Vassar High senior, who attended the event with his mother, Jennifer Shaffer, and stepfather, Steve Shaffer.

“And it’s renewable every year, too,” added Trinity Bloss, 17, a Vassar High senior who is Foess’ friend and daughter of Matthew and Kari Keinath. Bloss aims to study criminal psychology in college.

“I’m still thinking on the exact career, but I think I want to go into the computer sciences pathway,” said Foess, who said he could attend SVSU.

Incoming SVSU freshmen also may apply for more than 1,000 private scholarships by filling out one general application, according to Braden, a 2018 SVSU graduate who graduated from Maple Valley High School in Eaton County.

“They fill that out and when they submit it, that automatically applies them to all the scholarships that they’re eligible for,” Braden said.

Braden said she chose to attend SVSU after receiving one of the Dean’s Scholarship awards, but noted she also “received some other private scholarships.”

“It paid off,” Braden said of her decision to attend SVSU.

“We don’t require our students to live on campus, so they can save money that way as well – by commuting. For our local students here, that’s super common for them.”

Information about SVSU scholarships, grants, loans and work-study options can be found at www.svsu.edu/cfsc.

Other ways to help pay for college include joining the Michigan Army National Guard, according to Sgt. John McCoy, a 2016 Reese High School graduate attending the Vassar event to recruit students.

Michigan Army National Guard members can receive up to $6,000 per school year if they attend any private or public college, university, vocational school, technical school or trade school in Michigan.

Many Michigan colleges offer reduced tuition to Michigan Army National Guard members attending those schools, McCoy said. Those benefits arrive in addition to other benefits an Army National Guard member could receive through the G.I. Bill as a military veteran, according to McCoy.

“Next Step Palooza” was open to students from 10th through 12th grades, and featured free pizza for attendees, who could win door prizes. The event included U.S. Army recruiters, representatives from several colleges, help with FAFSA documents and career advice from Vassar High School’s grant-funded consultants.

“It was very useful, very informative and I like having everybody in one place where you can just go to the different stations and ask questions,” Jennifer Shaffer said.

The grant-funded workers, along with Beck, “made the program really nice this year because we could all come together for a big event,” said Andrea Legue, Vassar Public Schools family/community liaison.

“We’re hoping it will be like this every year coming up.”

Tom Gilchrist is a staff writer for The Advertiser. He can be reached at gilchrist@tcadvertiser.com.

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