KOKOMO, Ind. — High school isn’t just about textbooks and slideshows – for many students in and outside Howard County, it’s about learning a hands-on skill and earning college credit.
Ivy Tech Kokomo offers the opportunity to gain hands-on manufacturing experience while working toward an associate degree in ITEP (integrated technology education program), which is available to students in high schools and career centers around north central Indiana.
Jacob Turner, a teacher at Western High School, has fully embraced the program. He has launched new classes at the high school, trained one summer at FCA, and each year he takes his students to Ivy Tech Kokomo’s National Manufacturing Day, where they can meet with industry leaders and learn about job opportunities.
For Turner, bringing the program to his students was a no-brainer. It gives them real-world experience and helps prepare them for jobs or education after high school.
“This experience will help them later in life,” Turner said. “They’ll understand how things are made.”
His students learn how to make things such as tool boxes and hammers, and this year they’ll make book shelves that will be used at the Western Intermediate School.
Spencer Gee, a senior at Western, is in his third year of the ITEP program. So far, he’s learned about on-the-job safety, completed a few projects and, as of a few weeks ago, he has started welding.
Turner had his students start with something seemingly simple. They had to weld together five square pieces of metal into a box that could hold water without leaking. It sounds easy, but Gee and the other students had to go over the box several times before getting it right.
While it was Gee’s first time welding, it wasn’t the first time for his classmate Dylan Dukes. A junior in the program, Dukes has been interested in welding since he was a kid. His grandfather got him interested, and he’s been working to become a welder for several years. He also attend the Kokomo Area Career Center, where he gets weekly welding experience.
Through ITEP, Dukes already has credit that he can apply to Ivy Tech, which he plans to use toward a welding certification after high school.
Turner, like the other teachers involved in ITEP, takes the college credit aspect of the program seriously.
“It’s dual credit, so we go by the college’s requirements,” he said. “We do everything they go by.”
Turner, along with the handful of others around north central Indiana who teach ITEP classes, receives training and equipment from Ivy Tech Kokomo. All of it is paid for with a Youth Career Connect grant through the U.S. Department of Labor.
By enrolling in the program, students have the opportunity to earn certifications in manufacturing, and they gain industry experience through internships and work study. FCA is one of the companies that routinely partners with Ivy Tech Kokomo to provide this industry experience.
Students who get experience at FCA shadow mentors for 12 weeks. During that time, students are learning the ins and outs of all things manufacturing. At the end of their 12 weeks, they deliver a presentation to management teams and earn more college credit.
Bob Varsanik, general manager of the transmission and casting division at FCA, said the program is not just beneficial to the students, but to the company, as well.
“We’re doing this in order to give high school students and understanding of what advanced manufacturing is today,” Varsanik said. “It’s not what it was in the past . These students, a lot of them don’t realize that.”
By giving them this understanding of the industry, they hope to groom potential future employees who will return after college.
“We need to continue to bring in fresh ideas and fresh people that are wanting to come into this environment,” Varsanik said.
Ivy Tech Kokomo has been able to stretch the grant dollars for the program so that it will extend two more semesters, but Jan Bailey, who runs the program, said they’ll keep it even after the grant runs out. The college hopes to secure partnerships with businesses and economic development organizations to help keep the program going.
Source: Kokomo Tribune, http://bit.ly/2gDjhGs
Information from: Kokomo Tribune, http://www.ktonline.com
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by the Kokomo Tribune.