Indiana funds career-focused learning at 18 schools

State funds will help Elkhart County students easily transition into college or a career after high school, through several new efforts at local schools. 

(JENNIFER SHEPHARD/The Elkhart Truth, File)

Posted on July 8, 2014 at 9:48 p.m.

Fairfield Community Schools and the Elkhart Area Career Center are among 18 education groups statewide that received a grant to prepare students for a career while they are still in high school.

Gov. Mike Pence awarded about $3 million overall to schools around the state to launch new curricula that’s focused on technology and careers.

The Elkhart Area Career Center received $124,500 plus a $42,500 private match, and Fairfield received $13,667 with a $6,891 private match.

The private matches will come from local organizations that have agreed to partner with the schools and provide opportunities for students.

Health care and manufacturing

The Elkhart Area Career Center will establish new opportunities for students to earn college credit towards health care and manufacturing careers, while Fairfield will partner with a local manufacturing company to get students on-the-job training.

Goshen manufacturing company GDC is working with Fairfield.

Students will work through a computerized curriculum during junior year, then they will do hands-on work in the field in their senior year, Superintendent Steve Thalheimer said.

By the time students in the program graduate, they will have had the opportunity to earn five certificates in logistics, operations, logistics associate, safety and production, and up to four college credit hours through Ivy Tech.

Current Fairfield teacher Dave Swank has been credentialed through Ivy Tech to teach the college-level material, Thalheimer said.

Lynn Kitson, human resources director at GDC, said the company hopes to show local students what kind of careers they could have in manufacturing.

Plus, students need to know more about what’s expected of them in a workplace environment, she said.

GDC has a difficult time finding young employees who have a good work ethic — employees struggle with basic things like showing up for work on time and when it’s appropriate to use a cellphone in the building.

Through this partnership with Fairfield, Kitson said GDC hopes to get kids interested in manufacturing and then keep them in the local area with their new knowledge.

“Hopefully, they won’t gain this knowledge and leave,” she said. “We really need students in the Goshen and Elkhart area to stay. If good opportunities in the area come along, hopefully more kids will stay.”

Thirty students have already signed up to participate in Fairfield’s program this fall, Thalheimer said.

The career center in Elkhart is also partnering with Ivy Tech as well as local companies in order to give students job experience through a program called Early College.

Students who enroll could earn up to 30 college credits, two health-care related industry certifications and worksite experience, and they also could build relationships with employers in the area, according to a press release from the state.

The career center’s grant funds will be used to hire career advisers who will work with students and the organizations involved in the partnership.

Bill Kovach, director of career and technical education at the career center, said the idea is to help students meet the career goals they've set.

Advisers will help guide students through the Early College program at both Elkhart high schools and the career center.

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks

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