A Project for Better Journalism chapter
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College, trade school, or both?

   Karl Timmer, a local blueberry farmer, was working in his brand new barn, his golf cart had been pulling to the left, he thought back to when he was a teenager and had to fix the loud “clunk” that his family golf cart was making. The hands-on training from his teen years did not only just come from working on his family’s toys but also from the Careerline Tech Center (CTC).

   Timmer, knowing full well that college just was not for him, signed up through his high school, Holland Christian, to attend the small engine repair program offered at CTC. He worked in the program for his junior and senior years from 1987 to 1989.

   He had prior knowledge since his family always had snowmobiles, quads, a boat, and go-karts. “It was nice to work on them ourselves.”

   “I liked CTC, it was fine. It was better than going to school. There was a lot of hands-on work, tool identification, safety stuff, and we could work on other people’s stuff as we got better,” Timmer said about his experience at CTC.

   Timmer is a blueberry farmer, and he works on his own engines at least once a week on his weed wacker, golf cart, or lawn mower. Also, he can apply his skills with small engines to large engines such as trucks, blueberry pickers, and tractors.

    CTC offered a valuable experience for Timmer, and they continue to do so for current students. Many students can take part in co-ops, which are very similar to a job shadow; however, there is pay and real hands-on training. CTC has opportunities in class as well for students who have improved their skills enough, they can work on cars and equipment that customers send into the school for a much smaller fee than if they were to send it to a professional mechanic.

    Timmer’s son, Nate Timmer, a junior at West Ottawa High School, attends the construction program at CTC and does not plan on attending college. For him, CTC was the best of both worlds: less traditional schooling and more hands-on training in something he enjoys.

   CTC offers hands-on training in many fields from culinary to mechanics. Small engine repair no longer exists; however, there is the automotive technology program where they service customers’ cars. They have online applications for students and they serve over 10 school districts in the Ottawa area.

    For many students attending CTC, the hands-on learning is better than going to sit in a classroom and write essays. And they enjoy what they are doing; students get hands-on training in a subject not offered in a standard high school education.

    Attending CTC does not mean that someone has chosen not to attend college, but that learning a trade first is the priority. Many students enrolled at CTC, such as Sr. Madelynn Tippett, plan on attending college for a business degree so they can combine their trade and their degree to start a business of their own. She plans “to pursue a degree in hospitality management and combine that with what [she has] learned at tech for [her] future plans.”

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