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A Head Start on Employment Education

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EFE Program

It’s never too early to seek work experience in a field that interests you. Students can now get a jump-start on career and post-secondary education via Education for Employment (EFE).

Established in 1985, EFE is a career and technical education program for high school students within Kalamazoo County facilitated by Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (KRESA). With programs in a variety of fields including, but not limited to, culinary arts, accounting, electrical technology, and health sciences, EFE provides students with hands-on professional experience.

“Sometimes students see a job on TV or have heard about it from a parent, neighbor, or friend, but don’t always know what a career is really about,” said Karen Robyn, EFE Program Administrator. “The program gives them hands-on experience and room to explore, as well as insight into how they can pursue different career paths.”

With a curriculum that relies on physical interactions in a professional setting, EFE imparts knowledge that cannot be learned by simply sitting in a classroom.

“We get them ready for careers, not just a job,” said Cameron Buck, EFE Program Administrator.

With backgrounds in education, Robyn and Buck understand that discovering one’s occupational passion is a learning process.

“In addition to giving direction, the program also provides students with context and helps them find out what isn’t for them,” Robyn said.

“EFE is just as much of a success for us if they find something that isn’t a fit,” Buck added.

Students can dive right in during the discovery process thanks to the participation and partnership of several local businesses.

“Work-based learning exposes students to the world of work,” Buck said of EFE’s programming. “That includes guest speakers, field experience, co-ops, internships, job shadows, mock interviews, clinical rotations, and more. The key is to have students interact with both the workplace and employees.”

Proactive work experiences like these often result in job offers for EFE students before they even graduate from high school or help them get to the next phase of their education or career.

In fact, according to the most recent annual report, EFE had successfully placed 227 students in co-ops, internships, or clinicals. The report also indicated that $2.3 million in college tuition was saved across Kalamazoo County thanks to college credits that can be earned via the program. Additionally, there is a 97 percent high school graduation rate of students who participate in EFE.

For the staff, these results are just a part of what makes their role so gratifying. For Robyn, seeing the firsthand progress of students is incredibly special.

“We usually meet with parents and students to talk about expectations at the start of EFE,” she explained. “I love to look at them at the beginning and compare it to a year later in the program and see the change in their insights, vocabulary, and self-esteem. It’s amazing and I’m so proud!”

For Buck, fulfillment comes from formulating a plan with the students.

“We ask them about their plans after high school and they often don’t know or they say where they are going to school,” he said. “I often think, ‘That’s a place not a plan.’ We’re giving them the skills to decide what their plan looks like.”

Do you have a student that would be interested in EFE? Contact their school counselor for information regarding EFE enrollment, as well as the latest news and events associated with the program.

Lastly, it should be mentioned that a millage concerning KRESA’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) is on the ballot for November 5. If passed, this millage would generate approximately $8.3 million in revenue from local property taxes to assist in funding a systematic redesign of CTE to eliminate barriers to access and substantially increase the number of students participating in Career and Technical Education. For more information on this millage, be sure to visit CTE’s website.

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