Gaylord Herald Times: GHS offers heavy equipment mechanic and operator class

Gaylord High School has a new class on the roster this school year thanks to a partnership between the school district and regional businesses aiming to further connections with youth and skilled trades.

Brian Pearson, Gaylord Community Schools superintendent, said in an email that the district applied for a grant through a partnership with Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) in the fall.

According to a news release from MITA, the $85,000 grant will go toward starting “a heavy equipment mechanic and operator class in Gaylord High School.”

Pearson said the class is sponsored through the three-year program, but added in the MITA news release that the district plans to “still offer the heavy equipment mechanic and operator class that teaches skills that are applicable in the real world of construction.”

He said the class has a maximum capacity of 30 students.

MITA said the funding comes from about $900,000 in Michigan Industry Cluster Approach 2.0 grants “that were awarded by Workforce Development within the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to help develop and launch employer-led collaboratives in a variety of industries across the state.”

MITA is defined as a statewide construction trade association that represents construction disciplines throughout the state.

Pearson said the grant goes toward equipment such as tools, textbooks and training for the instructor and outside classroom experiences for the students.

He said the grant is in effect for the 2019-2020 school year and the class is aimed at juniors and seniors.

Pearson said this is the first of this type of class for the high school adding that it is also the first of this type in Northern Michigan.

Brandie Meisner, M&M Excavating of Gaylord chief financial officer, said in the release that during winter, M&M will offer mentorship opportunities pairing students with expert equipment operators, job site foremen and heavy equipment mechanics.

“When construction season commences, M&M will invite capable students onto approved job sites to provide them day-in-the-life experiences with their mentors,” Meisner said. “We will also incorporate work-ready candidates into our ongoing corporate development program.”

Last February, the Gaylord Community Schools Board of Education approved a plan to collaborate with a Lansing-based company, AIS Heavy Equipment Technical Institute.

That collaboration came in the form of a heavy equipment operations and mechanics class.

The AIS Heavy Equipment Technology Program covers repair and operations, diesel engines, as well as welding and cutting.

In a previous Herald Times story, board member Katie Drzewiecki had said the heavy equipment technology program was also going to collaborate with the high school’s existing automotive classes.

 “It will be a regional program, so it could potentially open up to other school districts and other students coming to our program,” Drzewiecki had said.

Pearson said, “The primary partnership in creating (this) class was AIS.”

Jeff Donofrio, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity director, said in the MITA news release that each Michigan resident “deserves a pathway to a good paying job.”

“Bringing educators and employers together will help us solve our talent shortage in construction,” Donofrio said. “This grant is great news for families, our businesses and our economy.”

According to MITA, “M&M Excavating of Gaylord will play a vital role in identifying and hiring eligible candidates to provide a pathway from the classroom directly into a career in the heavy construction industry.”

Ken Bertolini, MITA’s director of workforce development, said in the release that the company is “proud of industry partners, such as M&M Excavating, who support vocational technical programs as centers of learning and catalysts of community change.”

Pearson added that the new class is also supported by Ajax, Harbor Springs Excavating, Michigan Concrete Association, Michigan Construction, Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, Michigan Aggregates Association, Michigan Works! Northeast Consortium, Team Elmer’s and Payne and Dolan Incorporated.