February is Career and Technical Education Month, a national campaign to increase awareness and celebrate the value of programs that prepare students for the world of work. This is the fifth in a series of stories focusing on CTE in West Michigan.
Nearly 2,000 Kent County high school juniors and seniors spend part of their school day at Kent Career Tech Center (KCTC). They earn college credits, technical certifications and work experience in their two years at KCTC. Each of the 20 programs equip students with the skills and knowledge to move into a successful career or college program upon graduation.
We spoke with one of KCTC’s instructors, Gregg Isenhoff, about how the criminal justice program changes students’ career trajectories. Here are highlights from our conversation:
What makes your program special?
Our program is one of the greatest. We have three full-time instructors with previous criminal justice experience: a former special agent with FBI and two former Kentwood Police Officers. By the end of the program, students have a good idea of what’s ahead of them. Some know exactly the job they want, and others know the industry isn’t for them.
How do students earn college credits?
Students can be enrolled in Ferris State University and earn up to 30 college credits. If they are interested in attending a different college, they can earn transferrable credits for those programs (usually 6-9).
What kind of experiences do you give the students?
The first year is focused on law enforcement tactics and the legal system. During the second semester, each student is paired with an agent who works with them through cases beginning to end. We focus on fire arms, narcotics, bulk cash and intellectual property crimes. The second year students become certified dispatchers.
Each day we give the students new opportunities to get hands-on experience. For example, we have four police cruisers on campus and we practice traffic stops. We have a partnership with the secret service which exposes students to dignitary protection.
How do you connect students to working professionals?
Every Friday industry professionals talk to the students about their specific jobs. Students are exposed to many different areas of criminal justice work.
What do students leave the program with?
Students gain many contacts within the industry during their two years with us. This network sets them up for cadet positions or internships which require previous experience. Some students go to Ferris, GVSU or GRCC. A large population join the military police.
Why do you love your job?
It’s exciting to see the students investigate, articulate and report what they did successfully. Insecure students gain confidence throughout the semester. Parents have called to say how much growth they’ve seen in their kids over the two year program.
How do students get into the program?
They submit an application and then sit for an interview. We only have 150 seats; the interview is important to find the best fit for the program. Next year’s applications are due in March.
Find out more information on all of Kent Career Tech Center’s programs at thetechcenter.org.