This story was written by Danielle Portteus, a staff reporter at the Monroe News, and originally published on March 3, 2018 on Click here to view the original story.

Business and industry leaders are invited to partner with local school districts to introduce high school students to a variety of careers before they graduate.

A few dozen interested parties attended a presentation Thursday on MI Bright Future, which launched in Monroe County earlier this year.

Jennifer LaDuke, director of career and technical education for the Monroe County Intermediate School District, explained how Monroe County high schools are comprehensive, which means there is not a centralized technical center like in Lenawee County or Penta Career Center in northwest Ohio.

“Our CTE programs are all hosted in our local high schools,” LaDuke said.

The ISD has been emphasizing career and technical education for a while because of the demand across various industries for qualified students.

“We really want to get students experienced in industry before they graduate,” LaDuke said. “We wanted to find out how we could connect more with industry.”

Airport Community Schools piloted the program beginning this fall allowing students to participate in workplace experiences.

In January, all of the county superintendents voted to implement MI Bright Future in all nine districts.

Carrie Bonofiglio, business partnerships coordinator with Workforce Intelligence Network, talked about the program and encouraged businesses to participate.

The focus of the program is to introduce students to a variety of careers to help assist them in their postsecondary pursuits.

“Almost every industry needs qualified workers,” Bonofiglio said. “The struggle is real.”

The demand for qualified workers is anywhere from 2.7 to 18 times higher than the number of new graduates each year.

“The demand is continuing to grow with an aging workforce,” she said.

MI Bright Future brings together the business community with students and teachers. Participants can contribute in a variety of ways. Career coaches answer questions about their position while more in-depth contributions include offering job shadows, internships, apprenticeships or sponsorships.

“We want to create an awareness, provide workbased opportunities for learning and immersion in a professional environmental,” Bonofiglio explained. “Your business can help.”

MI Bright Future received a $ 1 million grant to expand its footprint beyond its active communities, which include Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Lenawee and Livingston counties.

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