Karyn Darnton taught for a few years in the metro Detroit area before deciding she wanted to explore a different career path in education. Working for the Greater Michigan Construction Academy (GMCA) allows her to do that. She’s still on her own educational journey and is in the process of taking classes for a master’s degree at Michigan State University in the HALE program (Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education).
As the regional director for Lansing, Darnton works with the instructors and students to ensure that everybody is successful and that day-to-day operations for the GMCA run smoothly.
Skilled trades are really at a crucial point in time where people are seeing what a difference skilled trades workers make in the world. Right now, Michigan has thousands of jobs that need to be filled, and it’s so important to be educated, skilled and safe when working in the trades and GMCA helps students do that. The skilled trades industry has so many different career paths – from residential or commercial and industrial or even green technology (like solar or wind power), so there’s really a lot of room to decide how you want your career in the trades to be shaped.
GMCA offers classes in many trades, but our Lansing location currently offers classes in electrical, plumbing and HVAC. Students attend class one night a week during the fall and winter semesters, which leaves them time to be able to work to get on-the-job training and still have a work-life-school balance.
The construction industry is great for people who want to work with their hands or are interested in problem-solving and love being able to see a real product at the end of their workday or project. Every company in the industry does things their own way, but many construction companies are helping their employees grow as a person. Construction companies are encouraging their employees educationally to attend GMCA, or even professionally by challenging them to receive a certificate of project management.
I’ve learned so much about the construction industry, and I have so much respect for the people who work so hard every day in the skilled trades. Education isn’t always just in the classroom either. Between lab time, textbook/codebook time and on-the-job training, students are challenged to be able to not only be book smart but hands-on smart too.
The students and instructors here consistently amaze me. Our high school, work-based learning program built a shelter (similar to a doghouse) that was donated to Potter Park Zoo to be an off-exhibit shelter for the wolves. The instructor used this as an opportunity to not only apply classroom curriculum, but also teach soft skills like teamwork, communication and project management.
One of our third-year electrical classes actually did a class competition to demonstrate students’ lab skills, and it was great to see their hard work and then also use the competition as a way to self-reflect on which skills they needed to improve. I am so proud of what our students accomplish, and I can’t wait to see what the new school year brings!
GMCA has three locations including Lansing, Midland and Saginaw. Prospective students can call 855-832-8879 or visit www.gmca.edu for more information.