Jenny Geno Champions CTE

As Michigan commemorates February as Career and Technical Education (CTE) month, Saginaw Intermediate School District (SISD) celebrates that Saginaw County CTE programs are uniquely positioned for student success, and aligned with Michigan’s strategic workforce and economic growth plans. Shortly after Michigan declared workforce shortages and the Saginaw County CTE millage passed in 2018, many businesses, industries, partners, leaders, and affiliates joined forces under the M-46 Talent Consortium as part of former Governor Rick Snyder’s Marshall Plan for Talent to champion a new successful vision and structure for CTE. Jenny Geno, Saginaw ISD’s Executive Director of Career and Technical Education, has worked diligently to secure partnerships, networks, and relationships that will continue transforming Saginaw County into a premier CTE destination.

Michigan projects 529,000 annual high-wage, high-demand job openings through the year 2028. Currently, Michigan’s postsecondary institutions have more than 3,600 qualifying CTE programs with nearly 90,000 students enrolled. The Saginaw Career Complex (SCC) has experienced a significant increase in student enrollment. Contributing to this growth is secured funding, the development of new programs, industry partnerships, expanded curriculum development, increased student exposure through targeted career development efforts, and an elevated awareness regarding the benefits of CTE opportunities across the county. To further generate program interest and support, the Saginaw Community Foundation is awarding 86 CTE scholarships of up to $4,000 for students to apply toward their career pathway of choice to help with postsecondary tuition or program certifications.

As a member of many boards, notably the Michigan Youth Apprenticeship Readiness Network (MIYARN), Saginaw Future, and Great Lakes Bay Manufacturing Association, Ms. Geno was appointed to a four-year term on Michigan’s Workforce Development Board last spring by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The board, composed of 20 Michigan leaders, began meeting in the fall of 2020 to address workforce development in Michigan.

Ms. Geno stated, “Being appointed to Michigan’s Workforce Development Board is an honor as we work together to address this critical issue across multiple sectors. One of our goals includes helping 60% of Michigan’s workforce earn a post-secondary credential by 2030, which aligns with Michigan’s State CTE plan and our local focus within Saginaw County.” She continued, “Our state-approved CTE programs and advanced training opportunities are well-positioned to support projected workforce and economic growth plans.”

To accurately pair local industry needs with student needs, Ms. Geno utilizes information she acquires from her various networks, routinely monitors labor market data, and surveys students to best determine and advocate for appropriate career pathway offerings. This strategy has led to the implementation of new programs available to county students at SCC, as well as other unique program offerings such as P.R.I.M.E. (Program Response In Manufacturing Education) at several local high schools.

“The passing of Saginaw’s county-wide CTE millage, the $6 million Marshall Plan for Talent grant dollars, and partnership donors have allowed us to upgrade equipment, add career navigators, and expand new programming at a much faster pace. By forming multiple committees and industry partnerships, we are able to better meet the demands of local employers, while satisfying students' needs as they look to build their future,” commented Geno.

New programs at SCC include Automotive Technology, Entrepreneurship Academy, Fire Academy, HVAC (Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration) in partnership with Local Union 85, and Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine [view program guide]. Partnering with SCC, Saginaw ISD has also become part of the SME PRIME school initiative which enhances engineering and industrial technology programs. Additionally, SCC built an advanced manufacturing lab, which includes the latest technology used in that industry. Further, new construction projects at SCC include a new medical/healthcare wing and auto tech lab, both of which were fully completed this school year.

Building trades is another high-demand field positioned for exponential growth. All Saginaw County high schools with a woodshop have adopted a new construction curriculum that enables students to earn leveled certificates which is a direct pathway to the Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship with the Carpenters and Millwrights. Through this curriculum, students have the opportunity to earn level 1 or level 2 certification within their high schools, while construction students attending SCC can earn up to a level 3 residential construction certificate.

The Saginaw Career Complex recently hosted a virtual 10th grade career day on February 11, 2021, and a virtual open house on February 18, 2021, where over 600 students and their families explored the myriad of CTE program opportunities that are available for their study. For individuals interested in supporting Saginaw County Career and Technical Education programs, SCC is planning their annual golf tournament to be held on May 22, 2021, at the Fortress in Frankenmuth.