September has been a big month for the South and West Washtenaw Consortium, a 40-year-old career and technical education program that has been sending local students off to work in high-demand fields.
State data that shows CTE students are graduating from high school at a rate greater than 95 percent and earning on average $5,000 more than their peers.
Saline gave their vote of confidence to the program at a recent Board of Education meeting, where the board unanimously approved the extension of the existing agreement with SWWC, which was set to expire June 30, 2021.
The agreement was extended to June 30, 2026 ahead of next year's deadline, due to the retirement of SWWC Executive Director Jody Gielinski, who will be succeeded this year by Dr. Ryan Rowe.
Rowe began his teaching career in Manchester, where he taught agri-science in 1997 within the consortium's purview for seven years. He went on to earn a master's degree in educational leadership and became a building principal, before joining the LISD Tech Center for the Lenawee County Intermediate School District.
He most recently worked for the Madison School District near Adrian as superintendent for six years before taking the job at SWWC.
"I couldn't be more pleased to enter the CTE world again," Rowe said. "I earned my PhD in career and technical education at Western Michigan University, specifically looking at the career decision-making process of students that are enrolled in CTE. I'm proud and honored to be able to carry the torch and continue the proud reputation of SWWC."
Gielinski spoke to the board about the success of the SWWC program. There are 747 students enrolled - a robust student population for SWWC, according to Gielinski. She also told the board the SWWC will expand from 17 to 19 programs in the next year as instructors are hired to deliver those new programs to students.
The two new programs include a robotics program being taught in Chelsea and a cyber-security program that will be taught in Dexter.
Tim Timoszyk, instructor of the SWWC auto body program accompanied Gielinski. He said the SWWC had been in good hands under Gielinski's management, and hopes the Rowe will successful follow in her footsteps leading the consortium. Timoszyk said the consortium has grown its involvement with groups like DECA, HOSA, Business Professionals of America, SkillsUSA, and FFA and that has translated into placing students into jobs, which is the ultimate goal of CTE programs.
"Eventually you have to go out and get a job," Timoszyk said. "And when you have to go out to compete, you're going to compete against all of those other kids."
SWWC has taken a number of initiatives to gets students in front of employers, according to Gielinski.
Another selling point for CTE is it helps students avoid debt associated with student loans.
"It's important to know that students who leave CTE programs leave highly employable and without student loan debt," Gielinski said. "I think that's a positive aspect of our programs."