Focus on: Ivy Tech

June 15th, 2012

News Coverage:

Focus on: Ivy Tech

By Christian Sheckler of The News-Sentinel

Friday, June 15, 2012 - 12:01 am

Almost every year since the national recession began at the end of 2007, Ivy Tech Community College's northeast regional campus in Fort Wayne has seen its enrollment surge, and it's no surprise to college officials.

As people found themselves out of work and struggled to find jobs in the tough economy, many flocked to community colleges such as Ivy Tech, hoping to update their skill sets and make themselves more attractive to employers, said Jim Aschliman, who runs Ivy Tech Northeast's Corporate College division.

“Being in a situation where you're unemployed and now you don't have the skills society is looking for is a monumental challenge,” Aschliman said in a recent interview.

At Ivy Tech Northeast, enrollment has more than doubled since before the recession started. Between 2007 and 2008, attendance jumped from 7,124 to 8,489. From 2008 to 2009, it jumped more than 40 percent to 11,497.

Enrollment has since leveled off, but the surge underscores the value of college credit and skills-based training, said Cathy Maxwell, vice chancellor of academic affairs for Ivy Tech Northeast.

Many of the people who ran to Ivy Tech had passed up college to work their way up company ladders, only to be laid off without valuable degrees or certifications, Maxwell said. Others simply had obsolete college degrees.

Meanwhile, many regional employers had – and continue to have – jobs available but no one with the right skills to fill them, Maxwell said.

“There are different openings that can't be filled because they don't even have enough qualified people in the area,” she said.

To that end, Ivy Tech last year put a greater focus on its corporate college, a division that doesn't offer traditional classes but instead provides specialized training to companies and individuals on an as-needed basis.

“A lot of employers are focusing on skills, and you either have the skills they need or you don't,” Aschliman said.

The corporate college has trained hundreds of people over the last three years alone, working hand-in-hand with regional companies such as military contractor BAE Systems that require special skills, Aschliman said. Training sessions often can lead to a certification or college credit, which can be applied toward a traditional degree.

At the same time, Maxwell said, Ivy Tech Northeast's traditional academic division continues adding new and highly sought-after programs such as cyber security. The medical and culinary programs also remain big draws, she said.

“We do a lot of things for a lot of different people at a lot of different stages in their life,” Aschliman said.