Southwest Michigan First announced it had secured an anonymous gift of land along with a $100 million commitment for the construction of a new, world-class Career and Technical Education Center on the gifted parcel. “For years, local educators and employers have talked about the need for a centralized career and technical center in Kalamazoo County,” said Carla Sones, president and interim CEO of Southwest Michigan First. “That vision is now a big step closer to becoming a reality.”
Kalamazoo RESA and Southwest Michigan First maintained their commitment to their vision and re-energized the partnership in May 2021. A world-class and centrally located Career and Technical Education Center was determined to be a vital part of the redesign of Kalamazoo County’s career and technical education (CTE) system. This public-private partnership started ahead of Kalamazoo RESA’s 2019 CTE millage campaign, which received strong support from Kalamazoo County voters on the November 2019 ballot.
The donors, who requested they not be named, have asked Southwest Michigan First to act as their representative in the transfer of both property and funds.
“Today’s incredibly generous gift represents a transformational moment in the economy of Southwest Michigan,” said Sones. “Preparing young people to succeed in high-demand careers provides access to opportunity and helps them live their lives to the fullest and contribute to the innovation needed by our region’s companies to remain globally competitive. With more students gaining access to world-class CTE curriculum, our region’s workforce can continue the cycle of growth necessary for Southwest Michigan to be an attractive place for all to live, work and prosper.
Over the summer, representatives from Southwest Michigan First and Kalamazoo RESA, along with local employers, other community organizations, school districts and partners formed a CTE Steering Committee to accelerate the redesign. The Steering Committee reviewed, analyzed, and approved a slate of course recommendations to the KRESA Board of Education based on robust labor market analysis by the Upjohn Institute and the University of Michigan Youth Policy Lab. Currently, facility design teams are providing input on the Career Center that will house equipment and courses to ready students for future opportunities in the regional labor market. CTE course offerings at the planned Career Center will provide industry-recognized credentials, as well as develop the critical 21st-century skills of collaboration, communication, problem-solving, critical thinking and self-management.
The new facility, expected to open in fall 2024, will be constructed on the parcel of donated land located along the I-94 and Sprinkle Road corridor next to Wings Stadium. The facility’s central location adjacent to a major interstate and near the county’s industrial base will increase accessibility through a countywide transportation system and ensure equitable access to course offerings for all students across Kalamazoo County school districts – a commitment at the forefront of project planning.
Statement of Appreciation by Dave Campbell, KRESA Superintendent:
This announcement by Southwest Michigan First of these incredibly generous gifts represents a pivotal moment in Kalamazoo County. Since 2018, educators, industry partners, and community leaders have linked arms to envision the future of Career and Technical Education locally. Our shared vision is of a world-class learning center that provides transformative educational experiences that support long-term student success in technical fields. The best CTE systems globally bring education, industry and community into a shared mission to support technical skill development, attainment of industry-recognized credentials, and the development of the critically important 21st Century skills of collaboration, communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, and self-management. The gifts announced today lay the foundation to make the vision of world-class Career and Technical Education a reality in our community.
We could not be more thrilled with the location for our Career Center next to Wings Stadium. Our CTE design teams made of up business, community, and educational leaders in 2019 recommended the Career Center be located near the center of the County in the heart of the industrial corridor. This highly visible, easily accessible, centralized location brings students and many employers closer together which opens up many partnerships for mutual benefit. It allows for a County-wide system of transportation across districts facilitating easier access for students. Locating the Career Center near the industrial base of the county also opens up opportunities and removes barriers for students to engage directly with employers through internships and work-based learning opportunities. Hands-on learning experiences like these help young people develop marketable skills and gain access to industry mentors – all part of the competitive advantage of world-class CTE.
We have started the facility design process with our professional architectural team and will be forming program-specific curriculum/facility design teams to help inform our plans in the months to come. We are so appreciative of the Public-Private Partnership we have with Southwest Michigan First, as well as the many strong relationships with employers, community agencies, school districts, fellow educators, and partners who will bring this the re-design of our system of Career and Technical Education to fruition.
– Dave Campbell, Superintendent, Kalamazoo RESA