Career centers that are lending an edge for college and the workplace
Vocational training introduces students to environments beyond the high school classroom, giving them real-world experience and access to skills they’ll find valuable regardless of their future profession — or whether they choose to pursue college or enter the workforce immediately upon graduating.
Indiana’s Career and Technical Education Pathways program has served as one of five pillars of the governor’s educational agenda to “develop a 21st century and ready workforce,” says Dr. Jennifer McCormick, state superintendent of public instruction.
More than 52 percent of CTE students across the state earn dual credits (high school credit that also counts for college credit), and more than 54 percent graduated with some kind of industry certification, she says.
East Central Indiana has five career centers helping to fill the talent pipeline. Here’s what happening at each of them.
Marion Regional Career Center
This center boasts one of the highest college career readiness rankings in the region, with more than 89 percent of its students earning early college credit, passing an advanced placement exam, or earning a workplace certification. MCC Director Michael Ripperger says about 42 percent of students enter the workforce or go on to college after graduating.
“Students who complete the two-year academy will have the opportunity to complete a work-based learning experience,” Ripperger says. “Most academies have internships, but all have job shadowing experiences.”
MRCC’s most popular programs include nursing, construction, and computer science.
New Castle Career Center
NCCC services eight local school corporations, offering 18 career programs. The student experience at New Castle Career Center includes hands-on learning, real world projects, customer interaction, industry certification, licensure, dual college credits, and career preparation. Several programs offer public amenities, such as salon services from the cosmetology program, and preschool through the education program.
Muncie Area Career Center
High school juniors and seniors from 11 schools in three counties can choose from MACC’s 13 career and technical education programs. Students are required to participate in at least one job shadowing experience each year. Some students in specific program areas also participate in clinical or internship experiences with a local business, company, or agency.
“The job shadowing and internship experiences are a great opportunity for students to learn what specific career fields are really like so that they can make decisions about selecting a college based on a career choice,” says Chris Smith, MACC interim director.
Whitewater Career Center
The most popular of WCC’s 13 programs include automotive technology, welding, precision machining, and cosmetology.
“Popular fields tend to be reflective of in-demand jobs,” says Director Steve Dungan. “We partner with area businesses, provide students work-based learning and put them through the rigors of a career before they graduate.”
Outside of internships and apprenticeships, students also partner with local businesses to plan and execute special projects.
Richmond Area Career Center
Director Rusty Hensley says RACC’s automotive and biomedical programs are usually the most popular of the school’s 15 programs, although the school’s newest programs — fire and rescue, and emergency medical technician — are quickly closing the gap. Hensley says RACC focuses on providing students with educational and career foundations.
“We take everyone who has not figured out what they want to do (after graduation) and interview with local businesses to help place remaining students,” he says.
Erskine GREEN Training Institute: First of its kind and a huge success
The region is home to a first-of-its- kind postsecondary vocational training program specifically designed for people with disabilities, and it has more than an 80 percent success rate in terms of graduates securing employment after graduating.
Opened in 2016 by The Arc of Indiana Foundation, Erskine Green Training Institute provides training that leads to meaningful employment in hospitality, food service, health care, and inventory distribution.
Housed within the Courtyard by Marriott in Muncie, the 10- to 13-week training sessions build workplace skills through classroom sessions and on-the-job training. The curriculum also addresses soft skills like workplace etiquette, teamwork and effective communication.
EGTI’s programming is designed for individuals whose academic, social, communication, and adaptive skills are affected due to a disability. Most applicants would have received special education services in the K-12 setting and exited their secondary school with a diploma, GED, or certificate of completion.
Upon completion of the program, students leave with a certificate, resume, practiced interview skills and a list of open positions in their home communities. Just as important, they retain ongoing support from EGTI.