Belding High School to revive CAS co-op program

By Emilee Nielsen • Last Updated 12:08 pm on Monday, May 15, 2017

The Community-As-School (CAS) program at Belding High School is going to make a comeback in the next academic year. Teacher Ed Albert will be running the program as he has in the past. He talked to more than 100 students at an informational meeting about the program Tuesday. — Daily News/Emilee Nielsen

BELDING — Belding High School students lost access to the Community-As-School (CAS) program in 2011 as a result of changes in state-mandated curriculum.

Six years later, due to recent changes in curriculum requirements, students once again will have access to the CAS program.

Ed Albert, a Belding High School teacher, will run the program, which is set to begin this autumn. Albert also ran the program in its previous incarnation.

More than 100 students — next year’s juniors and seniors — listened to Albert give them a rundown of the program and answer their questions during an informational meeting Tuesday in the school’s performing arts center.

Students participating in CAS will be placed with employers in the community. During the school day, those students will go to their place of employment and work, simultaneously earning money and academic credit.

“It needs to be that whatever job you would work at potentially needs to be something tied to what you’re interested in going into as a career,” Albert told students.

Ed Albert, a teacher at Belding High School, talks to students in the Belding High School performing arts center about the Community-As-School (CAS) program set to make a return in the next academic year. He holds an application for the program, which he explains is as important as a job application.

“All the placements will need my approval so if someone is paying you under the table and doesn’t have workman’s comp insurance, it’s a no go,” he added. “Most of the time, family-owned businesses are a no go.”

Albert said the steps students take as they head into their junior and senior years can determine where they’re headed in their postsecondary lives.

Participants will be tasked with keeping journals detailing what happens at their jobs, their goals and what they can do to accomplish their goals. They’ll compile a portfolio of information telling what happens at their placement. Students are not required to find a paying job to participate.

Belding High School Principal Michael Ostrander said he’s excited to revive the program, especially given the current climate for skilled trades work.

On April 24, the Center for Automotive Research held a summit in Grand Rapids to address the looming shortage of workers in the tool and die field.

“They’re going to have a major deficiency in employees and if we can get our kids out in front of that, and get them into these opportunities … have them go and work in a tool and die company, in a welding shop, in distribution, whatever it is … a career they’re already interested in. If we can start pushing that training now, I think we’re putting our kids ahead of the curve so that when that deficiency happens, we’re already active and getting our kids to that,” Ostrander said.

“There was such a push to get everybody college-ready, but the reality is postsecondary education looks different for different kids,” he added. “For some kids, it is a four-year university. For some kids, it’s six months of training and immediately into the workforce.”

Albert said by placing students in their field of interest, it gives them a chance to see if that work is something they could envision doing every day.

“It either kind of solidifies that career choice or they learn that that’s not something they want to do,” he said.

Albert recounted the story of a student he previously had in the CAS program who was placed at a local animal clinic.

“After two weeks, she came and said, ‘I’m not going to be a vet anymore. I didn’t realize there was that much blood,’” Albert recalled. “It gives them that opportunity (to try out their interests).”

Another valuable piece of the program is the creation of a new worker to move into the workforce.

“There’s me at the school teaching (about) how to be a good employee, but then I’m working with the business person and make sure they’re doing a good job teaching,” he said. “It’s a win for the kids, because it helps them with their career direction and helps them build positive work habits. It’s a win for the businesses and the community because our workforce is getting better workers, hopefully.”

Ostrander said local businesses have been asking Belding to bring back a program like this for years and he’s happy to be able to answer the call.

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