News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 26, 2013

Vigo Schools ready to fill job gap needs

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County School Corp. has invested significant dollars in classroom equipment and teacher training for its career-technical programs.

As a result, it’s in a good position to address the skills gap and train students for advanced manufacturing jobs, said Doug Dillion, director of the district’s career-technical education programs.

The district offers career pathways in advanced manufacturing that can lead to jobs right out of high school.

 Those jobs include machining technology, welding technology, production technician, process engineering and electronics.

In students’ senior year, they have the opportunity to participate in co-op programs, in which they work a half-day and go to school the other half.

Companies frequently call the school district looking for potential employees in these high-demand areas, Dillion said. Often, companies will keep the co-op students on staff after graduation and help pay for additional education.

“They’re desperate for qualified workers,” he said of would-be

employers.

While the district is doing a good job recruiting students into some of those career paths, including welding and machining, that still doesn’t meet the needs of the six-county “Economic Growth Region 7,” comprised of Vigo, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Clay counties.

“We need more programs in the entire economic growth region,” Dillion said.

Smaller districts in the region, he noted, may not be able to fund the technology necessary to prepare students for today’s high-tech workforce needs.

Efforts to generate interest in various career pathways, including advanced manufacturing, starts before high school. “What we do at the middle school is very critical,” Dillion said.

For example, all middle school students build a Vex robot, thanks to funding from the Vigo County Education Foundation, Duke Energy and other sources.

In eighth grade, students explore careers and prepare a college/career plan. They also learn about the costs of college.

High school counselors use those college/career plans to help guide students based on where they have shown interest.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.