HAMMOND | George Rogers Clark High School teacher James Bryant passed coffee cups out to his students, asking if the disposable cups should look the same.
“Yes,” Bryant said to his students. “They are manufactured.”
Clark High School is one of eight schools and career centers across the state piloting a new curriculum developed by Conexus Indiana, a statewide advanced manufacturing and logistics initiative, and Ivy Tech Community College.
The program called Hire Technology aims to give students a head start on the technical skills required to pursue careers in manufacturing and logistics. The fields employ one out of every four Hoosier workers and have led the state in job creation, according to Conexus.
“What we're hearing from employers, they've got a workforce that is getting older and older," said Chris Watts, vice president of research and communications for Conexus Indiana. "And as their baby boomer workers start to retire they're having a really difficult time finding the next generation of workers with the right technical skills to step in one day and assume these positions."
At Clark High School, Bryant tasked the students to measure the coffee cups for a lesson in quality control. So far this year, students also have learned about safety requirements in plant settings and ways to measure productivity, efficiency and other manufacturing metrics.
Nearly 80 of the high school's students are enrolled in the program.
“Manufacturing jobs in Indiana is a huge growing industry,” Bryant said. “One of the reasons Conexus put the course together is because we're not replacing the workforce. One of the advantages I see to it is not every student is designed to go for a four-year degree.”
Students can earn college credit from Ivy Tech and industry certifications through the two-year program, Bryant said. The curriculum touches on the basics of logistics and manufacturing and also delves into specific skill areas employers have stressed they need in job applicants.
This year, all the classes will be held at Clark High School, but next year students, who have advanced to the second year of the program, may attend classes at the Area Career Center, said Clark Middle/High School Principal Robert Wilson.
Plans are to make the curriculum available statewide next year.
Watts said the program also aims to promote the changing dynamics of the fields that offer high-tech and well-paying jobs.
“It is not just standing on assembly lines and driving fork lifts anymore,” Watts said. “The jobs have changed and evolved.”
Bryant plans to partner with Lear Corp. so students can learn how their studies apply in the real world.
“The students see the application in their neighborhood,” Bryant said. “Here is a company looking to hire people or could potentially in the future be hiring people.”