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Ivy Tech Helps Expand Educational Opportunities to Meet the Needs of Employers

Chris Lowery
By Chris Lowery Senior Vice President, Workforce Alignment, Ivy Tech Community College

In Indiana, we make stuff. Diesel engines and generators. Caskets and hospital beds. Car parts and automobiles. Pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The list is as diverse as it is extensive.

For 200 years, we have prided ourselves on our state’s ingenuity and determination. Hoosiers work hard and innovate. But manufacturing is more than our heritage. It is our livelihood. It gives us purpose, provides us with careers and helps us support our families and communities.

Manufacturing contributes a greater percentage to our state’s GDP and employment than any other state. Indiana manufacturers account for 29.45% of the state’s total output, employing 17.12% of the workforce, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

Ivy Tech Community College deeply appreciates and believes in the importance of manufacturing in Indiana. Our college serves as the workforce engine for the state. We are the pipeline for workers to fill today’s skills gap and we prepare students for the ever-growing advancements in manufacturing and technology.

The college recently completed its new strategic plan with workforce among our top goals. By making workforce a priority, we are committing to being student-centric, demand-driven and aligned with the state’s key economic sectors. Our programs reach across the workforce spectrum, from students learning about advanced manufacturing careers to current employees to incarcerated individuals looking for a fresh start.

These efforts include programs that offer an affordable pathway to an engineering degree; develop science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills in high school students; tuition reimbursement plans that eliminate upfront costs for employees; and training programs that help prison inmates gain workforce skills so they can lead productive lives when released.

As the demand for engineers grows, Ivy Tech developed a two-year associate degree in engineering that can lead to careers after graduation or can transfer seamlessly to universities and be applied toward a bachelor’s degree.

The college’s engineering program provides a strong foundation in science, mathematics and engineering with special emphasis on qualitative and quantitative analytical skills. Students get direct experience with industry-leading software.

The two-year program is offered at several campuses, including Columbus, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Lafayette, South Bend, Valparaiso, and Warsaw, allowing students to start their engineering degree for less than the cost of tuition at most four-year universities and save on room and board by living at home.

Partnership is Critical

Ivy Tech Community College students gain experience through hands-on simulations and experience in an Engineering laboratory.

The Achieve Your Degree Program is a partnership between Ivy Tech and community businesses and institutions to offer employees the opportunity to receive a free community college education.

Ivy Tech assists students with the college and financial aid application process and defers billing until the end of the semester—ensuring students take advantage of any financial aid opportunities for which they qualify. Company reimbursement plans then cover the balance per company policy.

A combination of on-campus and distance learning ensures that students can maintain their work schedule while attending classes. On-site application assistance and academic advising are provided for students by Ivy Tech faculty and staff. Through this partnership, employers and community institutions can develop employees from within, which reduces turnover, fosters company loyalty and increases the community value of the program.

In southeastern Indiana, we have several programs that provide high school students with experience in the college classroom and at our local employers. Students can earn credentials before even graduating high school—a benefit that gives them an edge when seeking employment and helps develop the local talent pool.

The Batesville High School Co-Op Program enables students to attend high school, work with professionals and attend college classes during the course of each school day. A partnership among five Ripley County industries, Batesville High School, and Ivy Tech, students recruited for the program spend 64 weeks among four companies. They attend high school in the morning and attend Ivy Tech or work at their co-op site in the afternoon. Students can experience manufacturing while employers can meet students interested in the industry. It’s basically a two-year job interview for students and employers.

A related program, Ivy Manufacturing, helps students consider careers in advanced manufacturing and plan their future after high school. Classes cover everything from hands-on manufacturing practices to crafting resumes and preparing for job interviews. Students split their time between learning how to prepare for internships and career opportunities and gaining experience with tools and machinery.

A diverse, experienced Ivy Tech faculty and staff work with the students, including career development advisors and instructors with real-world experience who can share their industry knowledge and teach technical skills. The program helps students discover the educational and career opportunities available to them in southeastern Indiana.

The college has also partnered with local school corporations to offer high school students the opportunity to complete a 34-hour technical certificate in industrial technology with a welding technology concentration and three American Welding Society certifications.

Students start the program during their junior year and attend a local Ivy Tech campus three hours per day, five days per week during the two-year program. Certifications include shielded metal arc welding (stick welding); gas metal arc welding (MIG welding); and gas tungsten arc welding (TIG welding).

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development estimates that more than 400 welding and welding-related jobs will need to be filled by 2024 in Indiana Economic Growth Region 9, located in southeastern Indiana. Most of those jobs will require a high school diploma and some college, such as a postsecondary certificate.

Welding certifications are designed to ensure the welder’s skills are up to the code they will be working under and are also documented to prove that the welder is qualified under that code.

Preparing for a Better Future

Several Ivy Tech campuses have training programs to help prison inmates gain workforce skills. Our Madison campus, a partnership with the Madison Correctional Facility for women, teaches inmates manufacturing skills, focusing on welding and computer numerical control (CNC) operations. The program started with 10 women during the 2017 winter break. All of them completed the course and earned a certificate from the American Welding Society.

These programs are among many developed by Ivy Tech to help students gain needed skills and fill the workforce pipeline. Through hard work, innovation and education, Indiana’s manufacturing heritage continues to grow.

About the author: Chris Lowery leads workforce alignment and development initiatives at Ivy Tech Community College, which has many sites throughout Indiana.

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