We are fortunate in Northwest Indiana to have a wide array of pathways for career and academic success beyond high school.
Through our work under Ready NWI with employer and economic development partners, we project 60 percent or more of high-quality jobs will require credentials beyond high school during the next decade. Many of these jobs will not require a traditional four-year college degree.
The good news is that a high-quality credential valued by our Region’s employers can be obtained in two years or less and often while earning income at a job at the same time. The further good news is that most of these credentials can be counted toward attainment of four-year degrees, providing very affordable routes to such degrees at a time when student debt levels continue to increase.
A recent study by the National School Boards Association (The Path Least Taken III, June 2016) shows that students possessing high-quality credentials out-perform four-year college graduates in several key indicators, including levels of full-time employment, access to health care benefits and job satisfaction. And the average wage level for credential holders is only slightly less than four-year college grads.
A good example of technical certifications leading to high-paying jobs in Northwest Indiana is the high-tech manufacturing sector. Success stories from the Porter County Career and Technical Education Center include Connor Gustafson, from Kouts High School; Cody Jaskulski, from Hobart High School; and Matt Wright, from Boone Grove High School. All of those students are finishing the second year of our Precision Machining program. All will have nine college credits earned, and all are already employed by Urschel Laboratories.
Gustafson, Jaskulski and Wright are planning to attend Vincennes University in the fall with tuition paid for by the Next Generation Scholarship that they earned from their hard work at the career and tech center this year. Jena Hammonds, from Washington Township High School, already works as a machinist at Task Force Tips and will be attending Vincennes University next year as the first recipient of the Women in STEM Careers Scholarship. Brett Ford, from Portage High School, is one of the top students at his school and will be attending Purdue University this fall, where he will be studying electronic or computer engineering.
There also are many opportunities beyond manufacturing. Colton Flanigan, a Kouts High School senior, already is employed at Anderson Chevrolet as an apprentice. His employer plans to send him to Ivy Tech Indianapolis and cover his tuition in exchange for good grades.
Flanigan already has workplace certifications in brakes and vehicle suspension.
Health certifications also are in high demand. More than 80 students are earning a certified nurse assistant (CNA) license this year. Many have gone directly to work using the license. Brooke Jabo, a Boone Grove senior, already has been hired at Valparaiso Care and Rehab, and she plans to attend Trine University next year to major in physical therapy while continuing to work.
These examples are but a few of the numerous success stories made possible by starting a career pathway at the Porter County Career and Technical Education Center. Other successes throughout the region were recently honored at the “21 Under 21” awards celebration last month. Every student can find his or her own unique route to success at the career center.