EDUCATIONAL institutions such as Ivy Tech have clearly gotten the message that the American economy is in dire need of skilled workers to fill an ever-growing list of jobs in high-demand fields, such as health, computers and advanced manufacturing.
On the local campus of the statewide community college, students have access to twice as many courses in these areas as did the previous generation.
However, school officials are battling a problem that is common to two-year colleges — getting students to stick with them long enough to complete their
Studies by a research firm that is examining the state’s skills gap noted that only 10 percent of those who enroll in technical programs complete their degrees. Those studies were based on the experiences of first-time students who go to school full time.
As should be obvious by now, a good percentage of the Ivy Tech student body is composed of individuals who are balancing work and school schedules. In addition, there are a significant number of non-traditional older students who are pursuing studies with an eye to changing careers.
Unfortunately, even 50 years after its founding, Ivy Tech is still battling age-old misconceptions about the quality of its course offerings and their applicability to a wide range of careers.
The war is being won — demonstrated in part by the mushrooming enrollment on the local campus and across the state — but there still is need to make more people aware of what the school has to offer and what it can do for those who want a secure future in a growing number of career opportunities.
The local Ivy Tech family has some advantages in this effort, not the least of which is a support system offered through groups like the Community Education Coalition, school corporations in Bartholomew County and the local business community.
The Corporate College arm of the local campus is located in the Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, giving it an aura of credibility because that program is widely known for its emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.
The school has also worked through high school counselors in familiarizing local students with the course offerings.
That familiarization often involves tours of the Ivy Tech campus so guests can see firsthand the facility and its advanced equipment and laboratories.
Local businesses are also involved in this effort to get the word out about the value of Ivy Tech course offerings.
Companies like LHP Software in Columbus and North Vernon Industry Corp. have used the school to train workers in a variety of technical and communications fields.
Connections like those can widen the school’s attraction as many of those current and former students become ambassadors for the college.
Many of the approaches taken in promoting the course offerings go well beyond past efforts that were based on the attitude that prospective students should reach out to the colleges rather than vice versa.
In this age of of heightened demands for skilled personnel, it is the responsibility of both the college and the student to reach out to each other.
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