Herald Staff Writer
The partners brought a dual-credit manufacturing course to Pike Central High School in 2010 with the goal of giving local students a head start into the VU precision manufacturing program and sending them into the world of robotics, industrial maintenance and product design.
“I graduated roughly 60 students in manufacturing (in 2012). If I had graduated 600 students, I still would not have met the job demands,” Haase said.
The Pike Central manufacturing program was opened to students from schools throughout the surrounding area last school year.
Both Haase and Glenn Weil, Patoka Valley Career and Technical Education director, say that manufacturing careers are often misunderstood, but they stressed that an education in the trade can be just as beneficial as a traditional four-year degree.
“There’s just that stigma that manufacturing is dark and dirty and ugly,” Weil said. “I’m trying so hard to crack whatever code it is to relay the message to the proper students that these jobs are equivalent in pay, benefits, security and even self-fulfillment as college degrees. The men and women that are doing precision machining today are making great wages. There is particular enjoyment in making something that you can see.”
“The emphasis is that the graduates of the program are in a white coat job. They are working on computers, programming automated equipment,” he said.
The high school course, which mirrors the material taught in the first semester of the VU manufacturing degree program, is hosted in a recently constructed wing of Pike Central High School and is taught by VU professor Mark Scott. The school has three new computer numeric controlled mills and two new lathes, as well as 15 to 20 older, manual machines to give students hands-on training. The machines are the same models used by big manufacturing companies in the state.
“They’ve got a well-stocked program. We’re really happy and proud of what we’ve got over there,” Weil said.
Students who complete the program have the option of continuing on in the VU degree or taking an entry-level machining position.
Haase, Weil and Scott all hope to see more students from nearby schools enroll in the future. So far, about 17 students have registered for the coming school year. The program ideally can handle about 30 total students.
“I think we’ve come a long way in two years. The biggest challenge is involvement and career awareness. There are lots of opportunities jobwise with companies of all different sizes,” Scott said.
Interested students should email Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org