This past Tuesday Gov. Mike Pence gave his first State of the State address. He used a portion of that speech to touch on vocational education and matching qualified and trained recent graduates with Indiana employers in need of skilled labor. He pointed to Bill Beach, a southern Indiana businessman who has owned and operated Beach Mold and Tool in New Albany since 1972.
Beach never went to college, Pence said. Instead he went to vocational school and learned the trade of injection molding and precision tool making. Today Beach’s company runs three shifts and employs 600 people in a 410,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. Furthermore, Beach told Goshen News Statehouse reporter Maureen Hayden that he has trouble finding enough qualified employees for work that pays up to $30 an hour.
“We’re ready to hire people every day,” Beach said. “But our biggest challenge is finding people with the skills and with the work ethic to do the job.”
Not every kid who graduates high school is geared to go to a traditional four-year college or university. Many of those same students are incredibly smart and motivated. Even if college isn’t in their plans, they should have the opportunities to resources to discover a trade that might be suited for them. Just because somebody doesn’t go to college doesn’t mean they don’t need to make a living.
Pence’s commitment to strengthening vocational education in high schools and beyond is encouraging. The Governor wants to create a regional Indiana Works Council consisting of both employers and educators to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of vocational education in that region. He also wants those councils to draft alternative curriculum for vocational programs that could lead to necessary trade certification or licensing.
Locally, we have been fortunate to have a strong vocational education focus that prepares students for trades they may be interested in. Look no further than the Elkhart Area Career Center that has been expanding career opportunities for high school students for four decades. Last year 429 EACC students earned more than 3,700 dual credits for Ivy Tech Community College. Areas of study include automotive service technology, welding, construction trades, culinary arts, machine tool technology and computer aided drafting just to name a few.