Keenan Bates is like many people. He made what he calls “some horrible choices” early on, like dropping out of high school two weeks before graduation, that made life more challenging than it had to be. Ten years later, he’s back on track – and more. Well on his way to an associate degree at Ivy Tech Community College, with help from the College’s 10,000 courses initiative, he’s looking ahead to everything from skilled trades journeyman status to a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering to perhaps graduate school.
Much of Keenan’s inspiration comes from wife Megan, herself an honor graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ball State University, who is encouraging Keenan’s educational pursuits.
Having earned his high school equivalency in early 2019 after being out of school for more than eight years, Keenan started at Ivy Tech Kokomo that summer. Now, he’s a fulltime student in Ivy Tech’s Industrial Technology program, carrying a 3.9 GPA and on track to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree with an Electrical Technology Technical Certificate. When Megan told him to look into a program at Ivy Tech this spring that was offering free training courses in select technical areas for up to 10,000 people, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I pursued this because I am currently going to school to be an industrial electrician and the electrical courses offered by the ‘10K’ program look really good on my resume,” Keenan said. “I am looking for an apprenticeship in the Kokomo area and I believe the certificates I have earned thus far will help me get into a program.”
And it’s all part of his fast-track plan in a very busy life. “I commute from home in Windfall to Atlanta, where I work fulltime, usually 60 hours a week. And then I commute to Ivy Tech classes in Kokomo and Muncie,” Keenan says. “I was already taking two eight-week courses and decided to turn that into a four-course load by taking two classes through the 10,000-courses initiative.”
The two additional courses – Electrical Systems 1 and Electrical Motor Control – were offered online through SACA (the Smart Automation Certification Alliance) working with Ivy Tech. SACA is a non-profit organization that provides modular Industry 4.0 certifications for a wide range of industries. The goal is to significantly increase the number of individuals who possess the skills represented by these industry-recognized credentials, helping to ensure companies have the highly skilled workers they need and individuals are prepared to be successful in modern industry.
While the SACA classes were non-credit, Keenan knew the work would be an opportunity to get some certifications and a jump on the for-credit motor control class that was coming up.
“I passed the qualifying examinations and earned the silver level of certification in both areas,” he said. “This fall, I am taking the electrical motor controls course for credit at Ivy Tech and with that hands-on training, I hope to be able to earn my gold level certification – another step toward my goal.”
While the 10K program is coming to a close, success stories like Keenan’s show how Ivy Tech serves as the primer for a strong economic recovery for Indiana, according to Jake Adams, workforce consultant for Ivy Tech Kokomo.
“After assessing the economic conditions, it was evident we had to move quickly to develop an initiative that would be able to reach all Hoosiers impacted by COVID-19,” he continued. “I believe we were successful in doing this. The 10k initiative not only provided free access to training for 10,000 Hoosiers. It provided hope, vision, and opportunity for thousands more. We were glad a student like Keenan could advance his education through the program as well.”
Those who missed out on the 10k project are encouraged to look into the expanded opportunities of Indiana’s Next Level Jobs program, which offers tuition-free education in a number of high-value, high-demand skilled jobs in Indiana. Information about that program is available at ivytech.edu/nextleveljobs .