Education and Workforce Officials Provide Update at EDCMC Meeting

By: Tim Moran Last Updated: September 9, 2014

The Workforce Development and Education Taskforce, a program of the Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City, held their quarterly update meeting on Tuesday at the Pottawatomie Country Club, with many positive trends being discussed by education and economic officials in Michigan City.

“We have seen a lot of great partnerships and collaborations develop over the last few months,” EDCMC Executive Director Clarence Hulse said.

Rick Soria, president of Ivy Tech Community College’ Michigan City campus, announced the signing of an agreement with Roehl Transport - a trucking company based in Wisconsin - to provide CDL training in La Porte, which for Ivy tech will include a space to operate and a two-year program through a grant from Alcoa Howmet that includes specialized training in the company the second year.

A “four-course certificate” logistics program also kicked off at Ivy Tech this fall, Soria said, which will be “of great value to the CDL industry in La Porte County.”

Other good news from Ivy Tech included the school’s first EKG technician course, which graduated 19 students over the summer, with 18 passing their certification test.

Like Soria with Ivy Tech, officials from a number of businesses and organizations updated those in attendance on recent initiatives and plans to move forward. In attendance were representatives from the Center of Workforce Innovation, Grace Learning Center, Purdue North Central, Michigan City Area Schools, Kelly Services, Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce, Integrative Flavors and the city of Michigan City.

MCAS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins expressed her excitement about the participation of students involved at the A.K. Smith Center in a well-known manufacturing conference in Chicago on Wednesday, which Hulse said features “manufacturing companies from all over the world.”

“The kids are going to have a great time tomorrow,” Hulse said.

The superintendent pointed out noticeable improvements in state test scores at elementary and middle school in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics - specifically mentioning the progress make at Lake Hills STEM Academy, which has accumulating near a 90 percent average in reading, math and science scores.

A nationwide Algebra assessment has seen an astonishing improvement in scores since the superintendent began here in Michigan City four years ago. In 2010, only 11 percent of MCAS students passed, but this year that number has risen to 78 percent.

“This shows all our children can succeed if given the right opportunities,” pointing out that other schools have expressed their interest in becoming STEM schools - but MCAS “just doesn’t have the money to do it” at this time.

Eason-Watkins credits “a lot of parental involvement” at Lake Hills and that teachers are “comfortable with the content” as reasons for success there.

Audra Peterson, director of the A.K. Smith Career Center, updated the group on a number of different programs, including construction and trades, where six of the 14 students are seniors and ones Peterson hopes “will enter the apprentice program next year” and the success of the school’s energy academy, which now has 19 students enrolled.

Hulse and Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer touched on the new approach the city and the Human Rights Department under new director Jeff Deuitch have adopted in lowering the unemployment rate for local residents.

“The new focus for the Human Rights Commission is going to be toward assisting people in getting the right information and getting them trained before they look for a job,” Meer said. “Jeff Deuitch has done a great job in letting people know what jobs are available.”

Hulse said that while it is a challenge to get people to attend events such as strong skills workshops, a job fair held at Blue Chip Casino last month did result in 1,000 or so job seekers attending.

“Our goal is to get to all the people who want to work,” he said.

Kristen Patterson, director of Grace Learning Center, said both the Human Rights Department and EDCMC have helped in acquiring tests required by certain companies to better prepare some of the Center’s low-income clients on how to get jobs locally when a test is involved. Grace works with READ La Porte County and the Michigan City Public Library on preparing the job seekers that work with the Center.

“This is an exciting time for Michigan City,” Hulse said. “These are all great partnerships, and we are happy to all work together to create better and higher paying jobs in Michigan City.”