MDCD Addresses Need For Engineers

June 5, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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LANSING — Due to an ever-growing need for well-trained engineers and scientists to keep Michigan’s economy thriving, the Michigan Department of Career Development (MDCD) recently announced it will continue to support career development programs focused on engineering and engineering technology in the year ahead.

“We want to make sure that Michigan’s young people have many opportunities to learn about careers in the exciting, high-demand and high-paying engineering-related fields,” said Dr. Barbara Bolin, MDCD department director.

Project Lead The Way (PLTW), the FIRST Robotics competitions, the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), the Grand Rapids Area Pre-College Engineering Program (GRAPCEP) and the Detroit Science Center are among those selected for financial and other support.

“We especially want to increase the opportunities available to historically underrepresented populations, including minority youth and girls. That’s why the Department of Career Development is allocating significant financial resources and contributing professional support and expertise to these programs,” Bolin added.

PLTW is a partnership among schools, higher education institutions and private sector organizations whose purpose is to increase the number and quality of engineers who graduate from the educational system.

It has developed technology and pre-engineering curriculum for middle schools and high schools designed to attract more students to engineering and introduce them to the ins and outs of engineering and engineering technology prior to entering college.

The MDCD is actively promoting PLTW. The number of Michigan school districts participating in the program has increased from 11 last year to 35 registered as of April 1.

The department also allocated $56,300 to Ferris State University and worked with the university to help it become certified to train teachers to teach PLTW courses. FSU will begin training those teachers this summer.

MDCD is also working on the final details of providing start-up funding to school districts that want to implement the PLTW program. In addition, John Williams, director of MDCD’s Office of Career Technical Preparation, is a member of PLTW’s national oversight committee, which helps determine the national direction of the program.

Another organization that will continue to receive success from the MDCD is the FIRST Robotics Competition. This year the MDCD contributed $175,000, and it has set aside the same amount for the next two years. The competition is a national engineering contest designed to create interest in mathematics and science. The student teams compete to see who has built the best robot.

The Department’s financial support helped the program expand from one Michigan regional competition to two. The FIRST Robotics West Michigan Regional Competition was held in Grand Rapids in early March and the FIRST Robotics Great Lakes Regional Competition took place later in the month in Ypsilanti.

The MDCD was a main sponsor of both. Approximately 100 FIRST teams composed of students from several Michigan and some out-of-state schools competed in those events. Several teams went on to compete in the national competition held in April in Orlando.

“It was wonderful to see so many students competing in these fun-filled events that were also educational and inspirational,” said Bolin. “The popularity of the FIRST Robotics competitions is growing rapidly and the Department of Career Development is continuing its support of this program to help ensure that even more Michigan students have the opportunity to participate in it.”

The Detroit Science Center will also receive $200,000 from the Department of Career Development. The money will be used to reinforce the alignment of the many exhibits and activities with the Michigan Curriculum frameworks, and to emphasize career development concepts to teachers, counselors and students.

“The curriculum and programs, aligned with the state’s framework for science education, will help ensure the practical application of basic science, technology and engineering concepts to specific career and occupations that represent significant employment opportunities for Michigan children,” Bolin said.

State funds to help support the DAPCEP and GRAPCEP programs are also allocated by the MDCD. Both are pre-college engineering programs designed to help meet Michigan’s need for engineers and scientists, and to increase the number of under-represented populations in these careers.

DAPCEP received $620,000 in state funds through MDCD for fiscal year 2001 and GRAPCEP was allocated $424,700. The proposed budget for fiscal year 2002, which has not yet received final approval, would provide the same amount of funding for each program.

“There are frequent reports in the news media about the need for engineers in Michigan and throughout the nation,” said Bolin. “By supporting these high quality programs, the Department of Career Development is helping both students and employers.”

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