Representatives from the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio (IKO) Regional Council of Carpenters visited the A. K. Smith Career Center in Michigan City on Thursday, May 25, to congratulate the first LaPorte County Career and Technical Education students to complete the “Career Connections” program.
The program is the first in the state of Indiana to offer the “Career Connections” curriculum developed by the Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship and Training Fund (JATF), a program of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. It combines hands-on carpentry projects with “soft skills” such as decision making and goal-setting. Students successfully completing the two-year course earn 14 dual college credits through Ivy Tech and fulfill requirements of six months of the Carpenters’ apprenticeship training program. They are also eligible for direct entry into the four-year Carpentry apprenticeship.
The Career Connections curriculum supplements units of study in the A. K. Smith Construction Technology program, which include carpentry, plumbing, heating, masonry, drywall, roofing, insulation, electricity, interior decorating, and finishing.
Six students completed all requirements of the program, including Lucas Grams, James Henrich, Kannen Martinez, Scottaries Orzech, and JaMieriea Woodard of Michigan City High School and C.J. Hawkins of South Central High School. Grams and Hawkins have accepted the offer of direct entry into the apprenticeship program, which is based in Hobart at the IKO training center. The other students are pursuing Construction Management majors in college or pursuing other related career fields.
“We are so pleased to be celebrating these students and this partnership today,” said Audra Peterson, Director of LaPorte County Career and Technical Education. “This program has prepared them well, combining rigorous instruction with hands-on opportunities to learn from experts working in the field.”
According to Scott Cooley, IKO Regional Council representative who was on hand to honor the students, apprentices “earn while they learn,” working at job sites during the day while attending tuition-free evening courses to earn an associate’s degree in Applied Sciences. “Each year, 500 to 700 people take the qualifying exam, hoping to enter the apprenticeship program, but we bring in only 100,” he said. “To earn direct entry through Career Connections is a huge advantage for these students, and it’s ideal for us because we know they have the right skill set and understand the working conditions before they start.”
“This is a win-win for the students and for employers,” said Joe Coar, Vice President of Tonn and Blank Construction, who was instrumental in establishing the partnership three years ago. “There’s been a shortage of qualified applicants for the apprenticeship program in recent years, and the workforce is aging. These students will be in high demand and will make a great wage.”