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Kent ISD collaborates with local project managers and WMPMI

Today, schools offer a variety of classes to high school students that help prepare them for a future career. The Kent Intermediate School District (Kent ISD) goes beyond just offering certain classes to students. In one particular class, Kent Innovation High School integrates project based learning into their senior level English course that students are already required to take.

According to the Project Management Institute, between 2010 and 2020 15.7 million new project management roles will be added to project-intensive industries. Being a fast growing line of work, Kent ISD wanted to find a way to integrate the skills needed for this career into their required classes.

S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) services, which are a part of the Career Readiness Department at Kent ISD focus to connect classroom content to adult occupations. The West Michigan Project Management Institute (WMPMI) Chapter initially reached out to Kent ISD to inspire students about the world of project management. Ebiri Nkugba, S.T.E.M. Consultant at Kent ISD, saw the relationship as a “natural fit”.

In the fall of 2016 Benjamin Todd, V.P. of education for WMPMI, approached Kent ISD in hopes of finding connections within schools districts that would give students opportunities to explore project management for those interested in pursuing the CAPM certification. The certification shows your employer that you are a leadership-capable person, and have the ability to manage projects. If students pass, they are able to enter the workforce as a junior or associate project manager. That is how the collaboration formed, thus being named the “9-12 project.”

Students studying for CAPM exam with Ben Todd. V.P. of education for MWPMI

Simply put-the collaboration wouldn’t be as successful as it is without their corporate partners. Companies like Spectrum Health Innovations (SHI) and Priority Health are what make the curriculum real life for students. Corporate partners involved in WMPMI saw this as a great way for project managers to utilize their skills other than in the workplace.

Each week, PMP certified project managers from around the Grand Rapids area come into the classroom to teach different areas of project management. Among those were Lori Henry, project manager with Spectrum Health Innovations and Lisa Sikkema an advisor project and portfolio manager for actuarial and advanced analytics at Priority Health. The duo worked together to offer an interactive activity emphasizing the importance of communication within project management. Along with the curriculum they were able to talk about their experiences, give advice, but most importantly share the knowledge they’ve acquired over the years.

While students worked on the project management assignments, Sandi Stupica, English teacher at Kent Innovation High School, helped her students to edit their business cases, charters, and schedules. The critical feedback from both their teacher and the project managers are what really allow the students to grow.

However, students aren’t the only ones that benefit from this collaboration. For the project managers it’s the chance to give back to the community, support future business leaders, and even log some professional development units toward maintaining their own certification.

Lori Henry, project manager and communications specialist at Spectrum Health Innovations says, “Community collaboration has been one of the highlights of working for Spectrum Health Innovations (SHI). SHI collaborates with several universities on developing healthcare products so when the opportunity presented itself to work with students on teaching elements of project management I was excited to do so. I look forward to many more opportunities”.

written by Felicia Rowley