The Compressed Air Academy (CAA) at Michigan City High School is the first of its kind in the nation. Having already grown substantially since it’s 2017 establishment, the academy has caught the attention of the Indiana Office of Work Based Learning and Apprenticeship (IN-OWBLA), which is using specifications of the CAA program to create more just like it throughout the state. In addition, the CAA will be receiving the Indiana Award for Excellence in Career and Technical Education, and will not be running short of accomplishments anytime soon.
One of the stand-out aspects of the CAA is the cooperation and engagement of several local businesses in the compressed air industry, giving the program an in-depth curriculum based on industry needs. Superintendent of the Michigan City Area Schools Dr. Barbra Eason-Watkins believes that it is their responsibility of a school district to work with local businesses to secure the workforce of the future.
“The State Earn and Learn (SEAL) certification means that we have a quality program, a rigorous program, and one that can meet current and future workforce needs, so we’re really excited,” Eason-Watkins said. “Our students are increasing their awareness, the word is spreading, and they’re enjoying what they’re doing, which is all it takes.”
With La Porte County being a leader in the nation’s manufacturing industry, it has become dependent on programs like the CAA to keep operations running. Jeff Rochowiak, CAA and Construction Teacher, was beyond words to be receiving the SEAL certification and knew it couldn’t have been done without the help of every person involved.
“All of the hard work that Dr. Eason-Watkins, Audra Peterson, and all of our partners put in to create this program makes receiving this certification more exciting than we can put into words,” Rochowiak said. “The students have really responded to this program and have started taking pride in the work and that has been shown in the rising of their grades.”
The IN-OWBLA was established in 2018 after Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an executive order to enable businesses to establish high-quality talent pipelines and help foster student employability skill development. Regional Director and La Porte native Matt Presley was happy to be presenting the certificate to a place so close to home.
“Our office is tasked with expanding work-based learning across the state so when we find programs like this we really want to promote them,” Presley said. “As a state, it’s important that we sustain and grow our economy and programs like these are a benefit for everybody.”
For IN-OWBLA Executive Director Darrel Zeck, it’s important that the community knows programs like these exist, and that they’re in all six of Indiana’s key economic sectors (Advanced Manufacturing, Building and Construction, Health and Life Sciences, Information Technology and Business Services, Transportation and Logistics, and Agriculture). But most importantly, programs are offered to both students and adults.
“When you bring education and business together to develop programs like this, that’s a big win,” Zeck said. “This is the fun part of the job, bringing everyone together to celebrate the alignment of everyone involved and launching a program that is going to benefit the entire community.”
Audra Peterson, Director of La Porte County Career and Technical Education, pointed out that it’s important for students to be able to figure out what they’re interested in, and that programs like CAA can help them do that by being in a real work environment.
“The SEAL recognition is a great partnership opportunity for schools to partner with businesses but also offer that commitment that they’re willing to pay students to do internships while they’re in school,” Peterson said. “I want my schools to be successful and I want even more for my students and I don’t want any business to be afraid to get involved with schools. All they have to do is ask.”