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Editorial: Local C4 program hits right notes with students

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Career paths often take detours in this ever-changing world. Students pursuing a particular area of study often end up in jobs that are completely unrelated to what they learned.

Some of the detours are by personal choice. Others are dictated by reality — what’s available at the time one is looking for a job.

Some choices are forced upon job seekers — in part because their educational background was not sufficient for certain fields of endeavor despite the fact that their curricula were focused on those areas.

Based on surveys and other studies of statewide vocational programs, those students who are in or have participated in the C4 Columbus Area Career Connection program are more likely to stick with their particular field of study either in their career or a continuation of their education in college.

In a presentation before the Indiana Education and Workforce Innovation Summit in Indianapolis last month, consultants noted that barely one in six Indiana high school graduates sticks with vocational training in college.

That’s a marked difference in statistics compiled about local C4 students, more than half of whom continue their education beyond high school. The marked difference between the local program and others around the state can be attributed to a number of factors.

One is that local educators and administrators have maintained a close working relationship with local employers, even utilizing many of them in their educational program. A number of C4 students work at these businesses and gain invaluable on-the-job experiences in their particular trades.

At the same time, the C4 staff is able to absorb considerable knowledge about the needs of these businesses and can cater their programs to particular areas that will be of practical help to the employers.

For decades, the C4 program has been able to reach beyond business relationships to the overall community and provide residents with insights as to the program’s true value as opposed to aging stereotypes about vocational education.

Projects like the Solar Stealth experience (in which solar-powered cars built and driven by students competed in national events) served to expand the understanding of vocational education in this area.

Today this local training program is preparing south-central Indiana students to eventually fill jobs such as loan officer, electronic technician, welder, certified nursing assistant, automotive technician, cosmetologist, dental assistant and dental hygienist.

Those only scratch the surface of career choices. Statistics compiled by local school officials found during a one-year followup of the Class of 2011 that: 55 percent of all C4 graduates and 43 percent of C4 engineering manufacturing grads were continuing to develop their C4 specialty in post-secondary institutions. Seventy-three percent of all C4 graduates and 71 percent of C4 engineering manufacturing grads either were continuing their education or using their skills in related professions.

The customizing of the local program certainly has benefits for the students who are able to command higher wages, but it also has tremendous ripple effects for employers who have a larger and more capable talent pool from which to draw workers.

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