Inland Lakes Educational Foundation Trade Initiative

Within the last few years, the Inland Lakes Educational Foundation board members have been gathering information regarding vocational and trade school education, which was initiated by discussions with a long-term donor and one of their founders.

The Inland Lakes Educational Foundation has been supporting all ranges of post graduate education since its inception. In fact, the first of two recipients of a $1,000 award in 1988 was for a vocational scholarship. But, school officials said the recent skilled-labor shortage has driven an even greater need for professional trade educational opportunities.

The Inland Lakes Educational Foundation board met with regional business owners ranging from electrical, mechanical, and plumbing contractors, manufacturing plant managers, as well as vocational and trade school administrators. As a result of this discussion, they realized there’s a current marketplace shortage of qualified individuals.

Expanded funding for trade opportunities

Thanks to a $1 million donation from Robert “Bob” deVore, the educational foundation recently announced the expansion of Vocational Grants to Career-Technical-Professional grants.

According to the foundation, DeVore was that “local kid” who grew up in Indian River; he did not forget where he came from and wanted to give back. School officials said that although there’s still much work ahead and more funding needed, this donation will allow the foundation to have an even greater impact facilitating trade careers for Inland Lakes graduates.

A plan of action

Along this same timeline, Inland Lakes Schools’ administrators were also identifying the increased need for skilled trade. District administrators researched area community colleges to explore greater educational opportunities, then developed and implemented class programs.

Fast forward to today, there are a number of Inland Lakes vocational and trade schools’ classes provided on campus with descriptions provided via staff members, including a career-tech program in cooperation with Alpena Community College.

“We have 15 students enrolled in the Intro to Tech Careers course. The class is currently meeting Mondays and Fridays from 8-9:20 a.m. The class is broken into three rotations that are five weeks in length. The students started the second rotation Oct. 4. They are currently taking an engineering course and the plan is to take the students to Alpena to meet face-to-face with the engineering instructor and tour his lab. Our hope is to take them at the end of each rotation to the college,” said Inland Lakes teacher Kay Bunker.

The three class rotations covering the first semester are Introduction to Engineering, Introduction to Concrete Technology, and Introduction to Utility Technology. Second semester options include Manufacturing Processes — start to finish-in a range of business industries and utilizing various materials. Alpena Community College offers 19 other professional trade programs in addition to their Career Tech program.

North Central Michigan College and Kirtland Community College also offer Career Tech programs to local high school students. Officials said students might not be “certified” before they graduate, but they do have the opportunity to obtain some requirements prior to graduation.

The cost to the district is approximately $1,000 per student. This introductory year was covered via a grant received by Inland Lakes High School. The Inland Lakes Educational Foundation is in discussion with the school about providing annual funding to maintain this program going forward.

Career Tech Certification for the Construction Trades

Inland Lakes Schools will also be obtaining Career Tech Certification in the Construction Trades class currently offered by an area building contractor.

Powersports Engines is offered in cooperation with a local recreational dealer.

“The powersports engine sales and service trade is a big component of our local tourist economy. Several Indian River businesses sell and service powersports engines in recreational products (covering all seasons). BRP is one of several powersports manufacturers. Others include Yamaha, Mercury, Polaris, Kawasaki, Evinrude, and more,” said Jill Feagan of Burt Lake Marina.

Feagan said a powersports class benefits many Indian River businesses.

“I’d estimate at least two dozen certified technician careers exist in Indian River. The long-term goal is growing the Powersports class using BRP (Bombardier Recreational Products) course materials and Rotax engines for hands-on use. The school board is developing a plan to prepare a classroom with proper ventilation, equipment and workstations,” said Feagan.

The endgame

As the first recipient of an Inland Lakes Educational Foundation Career-Technical-Professional Grant, Josh Phillips recently graduated from the Industrial Arts Institute of Onaway as a certified welder.

Joshua Phillips was named the first winner of the Inland Lakes Educational Foundation Career-Tehnical-Professional Grant.

Phillips would like to recognize Industrial Arts Institute representative Tami Ward for inspiring him during a school-sponsored job fair. While attending the Industrial Arts Institute, he earned the prestigious Thor Award for Dedication, Achievement, and Performance.

The Inland Lakes Educational Foundation Career-Technical-Professional grant lifted a financial burden for Phillips, allowing the opportunity to excel in the classroom. He is now employed at Moran Iron Works of Onaway and is a 2020 graduate of Inland Lakes High School.

The Inland Lakes Educational Foundation is working in step with the school to foster trade, vocational and college opportunities to students. The expanded Career-Technical-Professional grants join the group’s existing six college scholarships and 22 supporting continuing scholarships (awarded annually) to provide a complete package of funding opportunities open to all Inland Lakes graduates.

The Inland Lakes Educational Foundation has awarded scholarships to over 800 past and present graduates of Inland Lakes Schools since inception, totaling in excess of $1,400,000.

Foundation officials said this is only possible thanks to continued relationships with generous donors. If you wish to donate and would like information regarding the nonprofit corporation, please contact Dick deVore at (231) 548-5161 or burtlakedevore@gmail.com.

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