In today’s global marketplace, the types of education and skills required for the opportunity to access good jobs and earnings have changed dramatically. Primarily due to technological advancement, the current shift has actually been a slow and steady process, heightened in part by the recent economic crisis.
According to an analysis using Current Population Survey (CPS) data (2007-2012) by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute’s Center on Education and the Workforce, the recent recession hit those with less schooling disproportionately hard – workers with a high school diploma or less need 5.8 million more jobs to reach their pre-recession employment level, those with some college and/or an Associate’s degree are about even and workers with a Bachelor’s degree or better have 2.2 million more jobs than their pre-recession level.
When it comes to the general reasoning, problem-solving and behavioral skills employers seek in what has become a much more lean working environment, the importance of occupational preparation in the form of education beyond high school is essential, and Ivy Tech is answering the call throughout the state of Indiana with unique programs designed to address the specific issues facing individual communities.
With the goal of providing individualized post-secondary training that leads to good-paying jobs for students, Ivy Tech’s Northwest Region is comprised of four campuses – Gary, Foundations of East Chicago De La Garza Campus, Valparaiso and The Pejic Campus in Michigan City – and meets the needs of more than 15,000 students annually.
For example, the Steelworker for the Future program launched in collaboration with the United Steelworkers and ArcelorMittal is offered in East Chicago, Gary and Valparaiso.
“We were originally approached around six years ago by ArcelorMittal,” Mike Worosz, Ivy Tech Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, said. “At that time a committee of six of us at the school sat down with the in-plant superintendents to develop a curriculum that would meet their specific needs. What we’ve found over time is that there’s a common thread between all industries when it comes to mechanical and electrical maintenance skills. Along with ArcelorMittal’s four local plants, students from the program are now employed by Leer Seating in Hammond, US Steel in Gary, UGN in Valparaiso and BP in Whiting along with a number of small-to-mid-size local manufacturing companies. Typically, these positions can start around $60K.”
Offered through Ivy Tech’s Industrial Technology program, Steelworker for the Future now encompasses opportunities in the energy, steel and process control industries. Curriculum has been developed to address the specific skills required in the workplace, including the use of modern technology-based equipment in the classroom and labs as well as experience-rich internship opportunities.
“People are starting to wake up to the fact that there are very good jobs out there if they have the skills,” Worosz explained. “In our area, those jobs haven’t been plentiful for a long time, but people are retiring, and we have more on the horizon. What’s different now, since technology has over taken industry, is the fact that someone who can change a part is one thing, but being able to figure out why it needs changing is another. That’s what employers are looking for on the job, and that’s why troubleshooting is an important part of our curriculum.”
You’ll find career opportunities in six schools on the Ivy Tech Northwest campuses: Applied Science and Engineering, Business, Education, Health Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Public and Social Services, and Technology. Affordable tuition plus financial aid including grants and scholarships, loans and work study as well as payment plans make attending Ivy Tech a viable option for most students. There’s also a distance-learning program that allows you to continue or complete degrees and certificates online.
Plus, in order to help students reach their full potential at Ivy Tech, the college requires an academic assessment for all students prior to admission in order to evaluate reading, writing and math skills.
“Some students, from those who are 30+ to those who have been out of high school for several years, may not have certain documentation – ACT, SAT or PSAT test scores from the last four years or credits from another college or university,” Tolu Idowu, Dean of Academic Skills Advancement (ASA) and Professor of English, said. “We have them take the Accuplacer assessment prior to registering for classes. That way we can determine if they need a little help so they can do well.”
ASA classes in English and math offer the extra help some students need in order to better understand what’s required of them in more advanced classes. In the past, students were spending too much time in the basic classes so Ivy Tech now offers co-requisite classes as a new approach. At the same time, ASA classes are moving toward inquiry-based learning (which focuses on the reasons why we reach certain conclusions) and emporium-style teaching (which focuses on figuring things out through hands-on experience), according to Idowu.
“When you enter college the expectation is there that you will understand what the professor is looking for, what is being asked of you,” she added. “It’s important to build upon the very basics before progressing to the upper levels. Our goal is for you to be program-ready in the shortest amount of time, and your path to success may include some co-requisite classes. Because our student population is a unique one, our programs are highly individualized to meet the different demands of each academic path. It’s really all very, very exciting.”
By identifying and addressing the specific needs of local employers, Ivy Tech plays a critical role in developing our workforce. With programs that make students both job-ready and able to continue their education at a 4-year institution if they choose, Ivy Tech’s hands-con approach offers students from all backgrounds what they need to be successful.