Miami County educators, employers discuss student training partnerships

$3.2 million grant to Ivy Tech offers opportunities to help meet workforce needs

Maconaquah senior Ryan Lamb

Maconaquah senior Ryan Lamb

PERU, Ind. – If all goes according to plan, when Ryan Lamb graduates from Maconaquah High School next June, along with his diploma he will leave with three industry certifications, six credits from Ivy Tech Community College and knowledge and experience that he plans to take to his first job at Chrysler Corporation.

Thanks to a partnership of Maconaquah, Indiana’s HIRE Technology program, Ivy Tech and area manufacturers, Ryan is participating in a special year-long Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics class. His success in the program will open doors into a manufacturing industry career where jobs are expected to be plentiful and well-paying, as well as the opportunity to continue his education at Ivy Tech and beyond.

Ryan shared his story this week at a meeting sponsored by Ivy Tech and the Miami County Economic Development Authority (MCEDA) at Ivy Tech’s Peru Instructional Site. The meeting brought together leaders of Miami County school corporations and area employers to discuss ways they can partner with the College and MCEDA to expand career education and job training programs for students in area schools. The new factor in bolstering these efforts? The $3.2 million grant Ivy Tech Kokomo Region received this year through the federal Youth CareerConnect program of the United States Departments of Labor and Education.

In opening the meeting to discuss what the grant can do, Jim Tidd, executive director of the MCEDA, noted that American education and civic leaders lost touch with the country’s manufacturing needs over the last few decades. In their emphasis on four-year college degrees, the importance of training people for skilled jobs was minimized. With estimates that as much as 70 percent of the current manufacturing workforce will retire in the next 10 years, and domestic manufacturing expanding after decades of cutbacks, leaders of education, business and government are now refocusing on how to prepare people for the open jobs.

The federal Youth CareerConnect program is one of many initiatives that leaders are trying to bring together to maximize all the available resources aimed at this issue, according to the managers of the Ivy Tech grant – Jan Bailey, program manager of Ivy Tech’s Integrated Technology Education Program (ITEP), and Rodni Lytle, ITEP program director and dean of the School of Technology for Ivy Tech Kokomo Region. The Peru meeting was one of a series of gatherings in communities served by the region to acquaint area employers with the many opportunities provided by the grant and the ways employers can help.

“The Youth CareerConnect grant can support programs like HIRE Technology and the schools offering its classes to create opportunities for students to come out of high school with credentials in skilled fields like production technology, CNC, welding, metalworking, safety and quality,” Lytle said.

“This grant allows us to take down some of the monetary barriers that have gotten in the way of realizing our vision,” he continued, citing as examples covering the costs of offering skilled-trades classes, of the professional development teachers need for the new programming, of the technical equipment that will allow real-world hands-on instruction. “And, for students who take advantage of it, the grant includes money to cover tuition and fees all the way through an associate degree.”

Bailey said Ivy Tech is looking for employers to sign on as additional partners in the grant and employers in attendance expressed interest and a willingness to participate. She described ways employers could help – offering plant tour field trips, summer training opportunities for teachers and internships for students; serving as subject-matter experts in classroom visits; and donating surplus equipment with useful life.

“The more we can help students know about what opportunities there are, what skills they need, what trends are emerging, we will pique their interest in areas they’ve never even thought about,” Bailey said.

Eileen Johns, teacher of the Advanced Manufacturing class at Maconaquah that includes Ryan Lamb, was joined by Rob Hileman, who handles the same program at Peru High School in sharing the instructor’s view of the importance of employer support.

“Last Friday was National Manufacturing Day and we took our students out to Dean Baldwin Painting (at Grissom Air Reserve Base),” Hileman said. “The kids don’t even know that some of these things exist, what they do, what they make, let alone what it takes to make it. And my kids don’t want to just see. They want to do; they want to get their hands dirty. I’m very interested in making these partnerships as well.”

Cathy Eglof, superintendent of North Miami Community Schools, expressed excitement at the possibilities of expanded partnerships, even jumping ahead to how career exploration programming might be offered in the middle school years to pique interests even earlier. “I don’t look at everything being isolated,” she said. “It’s all part of partnerships.”

Bryan O’Toole, president of Bryan Steam, and Sandy Mitting, the company’s human resources manager, both said they would look at ways they can support the initiative. While citing the need to consider safety and liability issues, O’Toole said, “We are definitely willing to be a partner. What that means we’ll figure out. We have a lot of long-term employees. Bryan Steam has a great story to tell and we have to tell the story to get young people interested in us.”

For Ryan Lamb, the Advanced Manufacturing classes and Ivy Tech’s involvement has changed his life. “I didn’t really have a college plan until I started class,” he said. “I’d heard the news about Chrysler and a program with the schools and my mom heard that it was available at Maconaquah and suggested I take it.” Ryan says he now plans to take advantage of the opportunity to earn not only some Ivy Tech credits but to continue on to a technical certificate and then an associate degree.

Johns was a natural to serve as instructor of the Advanced Manufacturing program at Maconaquah. She had had a career in semiconductor manufacturing at Delco before returning to school to become a science teacher. She’s excited about being in on the beginnings of the new program and noted students coming up behind Ryan will have an opportunity for a full two years of Advanced Manufacturing instruction at the college level before they leave high school.

Participants at the Peru meeting also included representatives of Orion Safety Products, American Stationery, Snavely Machine, and Woodcrest Manufacturing. Ivy Tech will be following up with area employers as they prepare to submit the next list of partners in the implementation of the grant.

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About Ivy Tech Kokomo Region

Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region serves Cass, Fulton, Howard, Miami, and Tipton counties and includes campuses or instructional sites in the communities of Kokomo, Logansport, Peru, and Rochester. Ivy Tech serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering affordable degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its community along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association. For more information, visit www.ivytech.edu.
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