West Shore ESD, state parks partner for summer job training

September 15, 2023

West Shore ESD, state parks partner for summer job training

West Shore School News is a service of West Shore Educational Service District in partnership with Mason County Press and Oceana County Press.

Eight students from the West Shore Educational Service District participated in a job training program over the summer at local state parks. The program is a partnership between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division, Michigan Rehabilitation Services and West Shore ESD. Its long-term goal is to support students with disabilities in obtaining training and employment, so they can develop the skills required to maintain employment as adults, after leaving the educational system.

The partnership began in 2013. Students benefit by developing job skills, state parks benefit from completed jobs that often don’t get done for lack of personnel, and the community benefits from attractive state parks and well-trained, dependable employees who will contribute to the workforce in the future.

“I have had students work through the DNR’s shortened summer work program since its beginning,” said Stacia Erickson, Hart High School special education teacher. “The program has fostered the growth and development of not only the kids’ work-focus skills but also their social and ‘people’ skills. I encourage my students to apply and I usually have one or two accepted. Those students have always had a positive experience, and return to school more mature, confident, and outgoing each and every time. I have nothing but praise for the DNR’s program and highly recommend participation in it if the opportunity presents itself.”

The West Shore ESD maintains an agreement with Michigan Rehabilitation Services to provide employment preparation and support to students after leaving school.  The ESD transition coordinator and Michigan Rehabilitation Services counselor Tiffany Schafer work together to develop opportunities for students with disabilities while in school that will carry over as adults. The collaboration also benefits local employers by having individuals that are prepared and eager to work.

“This agency connection is vital for students, families and community,” said Dr. Jason Jeffrey, superintendent of the West Shore ESD.

Students work in a group setting with a work site trainer instructing them on successfully learning specific jobs, task completion and employability skills. During the eight-week project, students complete a variety of duties, such as cleaning fire pits, shoveling sand, picking up trash, painting, raking, removing invasive species and re-aligning fencing.  They also practice essential skills required for long term employment, including attendance, dependability, punctuality, attitude, cooperation, problem solving, work ethic and teamwork.

This year’s students earned $10.10 an hour for eight weeks, June 19 through August 10, 2023. Locations included Charles Mears State Park and Ludington State Park.  Each park had one work site trainer.  This year’s youth workers were students from Ludington Area School District, Hart Public Schools, Pentwater Public Schools, Mason County Central Public Schools and the West Shore ESD.

“The program’s success is a strong indicator that it will continue to help care for Michigan’s beautiful state parks, while also helping students with disabilities develop valuable work and life skills,” Jeffrey said.

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