New programs train students for solid careers

September 4th, 2018

KPC Media

This Labor Day finds our state and nation with what people might call a good problem.

Across many occupations, employers have plenty of jobs open and not enough workers to fill them.

In one particular field, news reports are describing one of the biggest construction-worker shortages in the last 20 years, in the middle of one of the hottest construction markets.

In some cases, jobs go unfilled because potential employees lack the necessary skills.

Indiana is working to solve the problem in several ways.

Locally, 126 students have enrolled for the new Skill Up Indiana! program at Eastside Junior-Senior High School.

Eastside is serving as a pilot site for the program, which aims to train young people for high-demand, high-wage careers. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development awarded Eastside $251,000 to launch Skill Up, and the local Dekko Foundation pledged up to $150,000.

At the junior high level at Eastside, 44 students enrolled in Introduction to Basic Woods and Metals. High school enrollments include 40 students in Introduction to Construction Systems and 42 students in Introduction to Advanced Manufacturing.

Skill Up will help young people see the opportunities in manufacturing careers — a story that needs to be told with more emphasis.

Indiana leads the nation in the percentage of its workers employed in manufacturing — nearly 17 percent or one out of every six. In this corner of the state, the rate is even higher, with a reported 29 percent of workers employed in manufacturing, or more than out of four.

On another front, the Jobs for America’s Graduates Program already is operating in some local high schools. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has set a goal to add 250 more JAG programs throughout the state.

JAG helps at-risk students learn the skills they need to be employable, and it can prepare them for post-secondary education.

Since launching JAG in 2006, Indiana has established 135 programs statewide, ranking first in the nation.

JAG addresses the problem that In Indiana, between 8,000 to 10,000 high school students drop out each year, and 40 percent of those dropouts never enter the workforce.

JAG reports that its students achieve 75 percent job placement, including the military.

On Thursday of this week, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education will unveil one-hour documentary that can be streamed online at

“State of Change” follows three Indiana students on a road trip across the state as they interview professionals who are making breakthroughs in several key industries, including information technology, advanced manufacturing and agriculture.

“The documentary is a powerful representation of the dynamic range of job opportunities right here in Indiana,” Holcomb said in a news release.

Each Labor Day weekend, a giant classic-car festival in Auburn celebrates vehicles built by our ancestors in the 1920s and 1930s. Not only do those cars still run, but they keep gaining value.

Nearly a century later, northeast Indiana still holds a reputation for a strong work ethic and high-quality workmanship. We need to encourage today’s students to see themselves as keepers of that proud tradition.