Partnership delivers first-in-nation opportunity for Hoosier high school students

September 13th, 2017

By Kylie Veleta | Inside INdiana Business

Indiana is the first state in the country to have a new partnership with a national certification program focused on manufacturing. The goal is to get more Hoosier students graduating high school with nationally-recognized credentials in-hand, ready to start their manufacturing careers immediately. Nearly 100 high schools throughout Indiana will be offering the revamped curriculum designed to swing open the doors of opportunity.

“Even on a national scale, this is a major deal for manufacturing and logistics credentialing,” says Conexus Indiana Vice President of Workforce and Strategic Initiatives Claudia Cummings. “It’s a game-changer. The new arrangement allows, through a single point of entry, access to national credentials for every student in the state of Indiana. Having this first-in-the-nation credentialing opportunity statewide for Indiana high school students will put our state head and shoulders above our competition.”

Conexus Indiana negotiated the agreement with the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC), a national advanced manufacturing certification body. MSSC will provide its exam preparation material, via proprietary software, to Conexus’ Hire Tech high schools, numbering about 100 in Indiana. The material is designed to help students pass the MSSC Safety and MSSC Quality Practices and Measurement exams.

The exam preparation material will comprise the curriculum for Hire Tech classrooms throughout the state. Conexus’ Hire Tech program is a two-year high school curriculum that prepares students to earn national industry credentials, as well as credits toward a degree at Ivy Tech Community College after high school graduation.

MSSC credentials have been part of the Hire Tech program since its inception, but Conexus wanted to increase the number of Hoosier students passing the exam and graduating high school with the credentials.

“The pass rate has averaged 52 percent,” says Cummings. “MSSC exams are typically offered to adults who are already working in the field, so that 52 percent is actually rather strong for a typical high school sophomore or junior.”

Conexus says every high school student in the state has access to the Hire Tech program, and therefore, the MSSC credentials. The 100 Hire Tech high schools also feed the curriculum to a network of career centers, expanding its reach to students from about 200 high schools. Over the summer, Conexus trained about 85 Indiana teachers to deliver the new MSSC curriculum. Jeremy Ledford is the Hire Tech teacher at South Central Junior/Senior High School in Harrison County in southeast Indiana.

“Getting the word out about this huge opportunity for these students is half the battle,” says Ledford. “There’s a huge need for employees in the manufacturing sector. In our county alone, we have manufacturing businesses that are in need of employees. These students are creating a work force pipeline, whether they decide to start their career after high school or go on to post-secondary education.”

Conexus says students who graduate high school with the credentials will be in high demand, because Hoosier manufacturers are hungry for more workers. The Indiana Manufacturers Association says the skills gap, or the lack of qualified middle-skill workers, remains the top issue facing employers statewide. Cummings says students who earn both credentials will be prepared to begin a middle-skill career in the advanced manufacturing industry immediately after high school.

“There are more than 50 manufacturers in every corner of Indiana that are willing to give hiring preference to students who complete this,” says Cummings. “Conexus works hard to ensure students know about the opportunity, but it’s important that every member of the community help encourage them, so they understand that a middle-skill job is a high-quality, high-tech, in-demand career that has high wages and great personal benefits.”

In addition to its current roster of Hire Tech high schools, Conexus is accepting applications from schools that would like to offer the curriculum in the 2018-2019 school year.

“It’s nice to give the students something tangible. They know they worked hard, I know they worked hard and got the grades,” says Ledford. “But for them to hold something in their hand that they earned and can be applied to a future career—it gets me really excited for them.”