Open house on Sept. 26 will spotlight Maconaquah, Ivy Tech career training opportunities

BUNKER HILL, Ind. — Maconaquah High School is opening its doors to the public Sept. 26 to spotlight its new welding and building construction programs that, working closely with Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo, will open doors to high-demand, high-wage careers for its students.

The open house at the new labs is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at the school at 256 East 800 South near Bunker Hill. High school and middle school students and parents, business representatives, and interested community members are encouraged to attend. The evening will include the opportunity to see the new labs and learn more about this innovative high school/college/industry partnership that is taught by an Ivy Tech instructor assigned full-time to Maconaquah.

The initiative began with the support of the Maconaquah Board of School Trustees and school administrators to bring welding instruction back to the high school and soon included support from Ivy Tech. The first-year budget for the project was supplemented by a $35,000 appropriation from the Miami County Council after Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority (MCEDA), described area industries’ need for welders.

“Once the school board made the decision to renovate the labs, we began considering options for an instructor for the new program. We met with representatives from Ivy Tech multiple times during the year and worked out an agreement to use an Ivy Tech instructor on our campus,” said Chad Carlson, Maconaquah High School principal.

“Shortly after, we welcomed Ivy Tech faculty member and welding program graduate Bill Sullivan as the program instructor and we couldn’t be happier,” he added. “Bill works well with the students and has ample knowledge on all things welding. Things have started out great this year and we look forward to a continued partnership with Ivy Tech.”

Josh Speer, dean of Ivy Tech Kokomo’s School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering, and Applied Sciences, said the goal of the open house is to make parents and students aware that this is a pathway graduates can build on or that will allow them to go directly into the workforce. “We want to give them the full range of options, all the outcomes this can represent,” he added.

Evening will highlight partnerships

The evening also is a way to highlight an innovative partnership designed to benefit students – and meet the needs of area employers.

“Enrollment in Ivy Tech’s welding programs at Kokomo and Logansport has just exploded, quadrupling over the last three years,” Speer said. “Industry demand is so great that we’re looking for new ways to reach more students than our campus facilities can handle. By bringing the program back to the high school with the use of a certified welding instructor from Ivy Tech, the number of Maconaquah students taking welding has grown from about a dozen who traveled to an area career center to more than 60.”

Speer said the high school’s welding program begins in the sophomore year and offers students a chance to move up through a series of credentials. “Within two years, students will be career ready by earning an Ivy Tech certificate (21 credit hours) and some will even be able to complete a technical certificate (34 credit hours) by the time they earn their high school diploma,” he said.

As an extension of Ivy Tech’s successful Integrated Technology Program (ITEP), the welding program will include the opportunity for work-based learning experiences during the students’ senior year. “Just as ITEP students in the advanced manufacturing program have succeeded in moving into careers after work-based learning at FCA, these students will have the opportunity to work with area employers,” Speer said. “A lot of these internships function as long-term job interviews, allowing employers to see students prove themselves as good employees.”

And the welding pathway to more training and better jobs can continue after high school, connecting dual credit and dual enrollment courses into an organized pathway to exit college faster. The credits earned in high school will transfer seamlessly into Ivy Tech’s associate degree program, allowing them to finish an associate degree in just one year after high school, Speer said.

Program designed to meet workforce needs

It’s a program that has the support of local business and economic development leaders, according to MCEDA’s Jim Tidd.

“One of the major factors that companies evaluate when considering either moving into a community or expanding in the community is the availability of a qualified workforce,” Tidd said. “A major goal of the MCEDA is to develop programs that better align the needs of regional employers with students enrolled in both primary and post-secondary educational institutions.

“The Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program does exactly that by establishing certain career pathways for students that meet the current and future needs of employers,” he continued. “The Welding Program at Maconaquah is just one example.” Tidd said his organization is committed to working with partners such as Ivy Tech and Indiana University Kokomo to develop and implement critical career pathway programs in all three Miami County high schools that include pre-nursing, pre-education, and machining.

Ivy Tech welding instructor Bill Sullivan thanked the Maconaquah staff for making his transition to high school teaching so smooth. He said he was looking forward to the open house where he can talk about the program – and the opportunities it offers for students interested in creative, hands-on careers in skilled trades. He noted welding is designated by the Indiana Department of Labor as one of the state’s “hot jobs,” offering good wages and a strong future.

Sullivan had been a chef for 10 years when he decided on a career change and came to Ivy Tech for its welding program. After graduating in 2014, he worked in industry for a year before joining the Ivy Tech program as a lab assistant, becoming a full-time instructor at Ivy Tech’s Logansport site last year.

“I really like the opportunity to teach students a really valuable skill that’s in really short supply now,” Sullivan said. “This is a set of skills that really changed the direction of my career path and I hope it does the same for them. The program at Maconaquah is gaining momentum and the students are eager to advance their welding skills.”

SOURCE: News release from Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region