Labor and Economic Opportunity
February 28, 2019
LANSING, Mich.— Just five years after completing the two-year automotive technology program through Wilson Talent Center, Caleb Eaton has excelled in his professional career, and is optimistic about his future education and career goals.
After crossing the stage with a high school diploma, Eaton chose to continue his education at Baker College where he earned an associate degree in Applied Science of Diesel Technology, and is currently 24 credits away from earning his bachelor’s in business administration.
“My time at the Wilson Talent Center, was extremely helpful with jump starting my career as an automotive technician,” said Eaton, a 2014 graduate of Webberville High School. “The knowledge that I obtained gave me an advantage when entering into my postsecondary schooling that was extremely helpful when it came to understanding the fundamentals of automotive technology."
Wilson Talent Center (WTC), renamed in honor of the first African-American salaried worker at Oldsmobile and longtime Ingham ISD Board Member, Rudolph (Rudy) Wilson, offers an array of career and technical education programs in 12 career clusters, which provides high school students looking to gain hands-on experience in a 21st century high-skill career and opportunities to complete Professional Trades credentials or college credits, which brings the state one step closer to reaching its postsecondary credential attainment goal.
Growing up, Eaton had a passion for working on cars, and for him, it was a no brainer when he decided to enroll in the automotive technology program. “It was something that I really enjoyed,” he said. Now, Eaton is a Lead “A” Technician at Transdev, a leading operator of mobility in 20 countries, where he supervises a team of five technicians that manage all repairs and maintenance on Lansing CATA transportation vehicles.
One of many misconceptions the state wants students, parents and influencers to understand about Professional Trades – they are not dirty jobs, rather high-wage career opportunities that are available through various education pathways, including credential attainment, two or four-year degrees.
“The state sees value in continuing to support career and technical education programs to develop an educated and skilled workforce,” said Stephanie Beckhorn acting director of Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan. “We need to push for collaboration between educators and local communities to address the challenges the state faces in closing the skills gap.”
WTC students are taught work habits to excel in their future learning and career pathways, creating the self-starting employee businesses are looking for to fill the 811,000 jobs coming open through 2024 – an estimated $49 billion in potential wages.
“Students that participate in Career and Technical Education programs leave high school both career and college ready,” Jamie Engel, executive director of CTE at Wilson Talent Center said. “Besides the industry-specific knowledge and certifications they are earning, they gain valuable soft skills such as interviewing, communication, professionalism and reliability that will be of benefit to them throughout their lives.”
The talent center has leveraged several partnerships with local businesses, colleges and universities to enhance the real-world experience students receive while learning in an environment that fosters innovation. Strategic partnerships establish the necessary tools and knowledge needed for students to find success in their careers and prepare them for lifelong learning.
“Participating in a CTE program has helped lead me down the path to determine what I want to do in the future,” said Autumn Goble, a senior at Stockbridge High School and second-year student in the Business and Risk Management program. “It has allowed me to sort through my likes, dislikes and broaden my skill set to better focus my future career plans. It has also allowed me to build a network with industry professionals that can serve as mentors as I continue in the industry.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree, Eaton is eager to pursue an opportunity in an upper management position at Transdev, but can’t refute the effect his former WTC instructors had on his goals.
“My automotive technology teachers were some of the most inspirational people in my life,” Eaton said. “Even today, five years down the road, I find myself referring to their lessons and the techniques they taught me.”
Learn more about Career and Technical Education Month and Professional Trades careers at Going-PRO.com/CTE.