The Career and Technical Education Enhancement project will strengthen and expand programs leading to in-demand careers.

North Central Michigan College's Career and Technical Education Enhancement project (CATEE), a $10 million plan to expand healthcare, manufacturing and skilled trades education, has been approved by both the Michigan House and Senate and signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Funding for CATEE was included in House Bill 4016, a $1.3 billion supplemental appropriations bill that saw bipartisan support, with House members approving the plan in a 59-49 vote on March 1 after it cleared the Senate in a 22-16 vote on February 28. Whitmer signed the legislation on March 8.

“CATEE will transform our ability to offer world-class education in areas that are critical to our region and our state,” said North Central President David Roland Finley. “Michigan depends on a highly educated, well-trained workforce in areas including nursing, allied health, automation, mechatronics, robotics, and many of the skilled trades that drive our economy.”

CATEE includes a total renovation of North Central’s 59-year-old Technology Building to include high-bay labs that will accommodate state-of-the-art machinery and emerging technologies related to robotics engineering, automotive diagnostics and repair, CAD and CNC machining, mechatronics, welding and construction. A 4,000-square-foot addition will bring the new Emerging Technology Center to 10,000 square feet of flexible learning space.

The project also includes a renovation and expansion of the existing Health Education and Science Center to accommodate the college’s growing nursing and allied health programs in order to meet regional and statewide demands for healthcare graduates. A 7,200-square-foot addition will provide classroom, clinical, simulation and lab space for programs that have outgrown their existing footprint.

A recent space utilization study revealed the college’s health facilities are at 95 percent capacity. A licensed practical nurse (LPN) program set to launch in January 2024 and additional Fast Track career training programs will soon render an already tight space unusable, Finley said.

“Space and equipment have been our two biggest barriers to expanding programs in manufacturing, skilled trades and healthcare,” Finley said. “CATEE addresses both.”

The plan also includes an enclosed, barrier-free connector between the Emerging Technology Center, the Health Education and Science Center and the Borra Learning Center. The 5,500-square-foot connector will help foster a greater sense of community on campus by bringing all classroom spaces under one roof, Finley said. It will also alleviate winter safety hazards associated with the 24-foot drop in grade at the east end of campus.

State Sen. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs) said the inclusion of CATEE—plus an additional $3.75 million for Northwestern Michigan College’s aviation program—was critical to securing his support of H.B. 4016.

“Over the past several weeks, I have been fighting for funds that will help our region and the state and working with whoever I can in Lansing to represent our district well,” Damoose said in a statement. “First and foremost, I am proud to have been able to secure nearly $10 million for North Central Michigan College in Petoskey for the creation of the new Career and Technical Education Enhancement Center. This funding will help address the serious workforce development challenges throughout our region.”

Finley applauded Damoose’s bipartisan approach to keeping Northern Michigan’s priorities at the fore in Lansing.

“We are grateful to Sen. Damoose for advocating on behalf of infrastructure and workforce development that are critical to our region’s economic vitality,” Finley said. “His support will help make transformative education and lucrative careers a reality for students in Northern Michigan and beyond.”

According to “Michigan’s Career Outlook Through 2030,” a publication by the Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget, nearly all the high-demand, high-wage careers available to associate degree-holders are in the skilled trades, manufacturing and healthcare fields.