High school construction, robotics programs certified

By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
cstephenson@dcherald.com

JASPER — Northeast Dubois senior Tucker Neukam said that during the school day, he’s usually just trying to make it through his classes until he graduates. It’s not until he gets to work with the Automation and Robotics Academy that he actually feels he’s actively learning material he’ll be using in his career.

“Some people learn from lectures and notes,” Neukam said. “I actually learn best from doing what I learn.”

Neukam and other students in the academy spend three days a week at Vincennes University Jasper attending lab classes and two days a week at an internship with a local company. The academy allows high schoolers to take dual-credit classes to later earn associate degrees in fields that are in high demand.

The Indiana Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship officially certified Tuesday two Certified State Earn and Learn programs through Vincennes University Jasper and Patoka Valley Career Center. The programs, which have already been established for a few years, include robotics and construction trades.

Ideally, when the academy students graduate and go off to college, they will have enough credits to where they can earn associate degrees in one year.

Carrie Lively, senior director of OWBLA, said that one of the main concerns of some four-year university degrees is that they leave many graduates overeducated and underpaid in their careers.

“I remember days when conversations with teachers and students revolved around what college one would attend rather than what occupation one wanted to have,” said Lively, a former teacher. “Educators across the country … are becoming proactive and considering their vital role in workforce development and understanding how our misalignment of education and our workforce needs has led to our current workforce crisis.”

OWBLA was established by Gov. Eric Holcomb because of the workforce crisis. It’s meant to serve as a conduit between students, educators and industry leaders, Lively said.

“The need for this (construction trades) program is huge,” said construction trades teacher Luke Nordhoff, who established LAN Construction LLC. “We’re currently hiring just about every day, it seems like, and trying to find someone to come to work and know something about the trades is nearly impossible. There is not enough workers to go around … and we figured out that in order to get employees, you have to get them when they’re younger.”

Local representatives from each existing program, including educators and students, spoke about how beneficial the programs have been, including how many of the students feel more at place in workforce settings rather than a classroom. Students involved in the construction trades program recently helped build a Habitat for Humanity home in Jasper.

The programs also offer industry-recognized credentials through Career and Technical Education coursework in addition to the dual credit from Vincennes University.




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