One of Mt. Vernon High School Assistant Principal Stan Wilkison’s passions is enhancing career technical education and expanding student opportunities for secondary education.
“There is an array of benefits for that. Students can earn credit and certification,” Wilkison said. “When I first got here (four-plus years ago), I surveyed our student body to see career interests.”
Wilkison looked at the needs of local industries.
“Two of the highest careers, interest-wise, that also aligned with the labor market were welding and health science,” Wilkison said.
In the 2020-21 school year, Mt. Vernon introduced a health sciences program. All 15 students successfully passed Certified Nursing Assistant state exams.
This year is for second-year students in the health science program. Those students will have internships with Hancock Regional Hospital and complete the program as Certified Clinical Medical Assistants. Wilkison said 18 students are health science 1 in 5 are in the health science II program this year.
This school year, students are taking welding instruction at the high school. Wilkison estimates the school has invested approximately $500,000 in the lab. He said Mt. Vernon Community School Corp. Supt. Jack Parker has been supportive from the start.
Wilkison previously said three to five students per year were being sent to Anderson Career Center for both health science and welding programs.
County schools support career center
Parker said the four superintendents of Hancock County have been in discussions for two years about establishing a career education center in Hancock County. Besides Mt. Vernon, the other school districts are Greenfield-Central Schools, South Hancock Community School Corp. and Eastern Hancock County Community School Corp. Wilkison is part of a vocational task force, which started in August 2021 and completed its work on a collaborative vision and beliefs.
“We’ve been looking to collaborate to support vocational as well as career and technical career opportunities for our students,” Parker said. “We’ve been working on envisioning how we can be more efficient and support even more students at an even higher level. We realized we were all sending students out of Hancock County to different vocational schools during the school day to receive vocational training that we weren’t able to provide.”
Parker said a group of business and community leaders was formed early in the school year to discuss some of the needs of the county’s workforce development. He said the superintendents and school corporations agreed their vision is the same.
“Our vision is every Hancock County resident has the opportunity for career success through relevant workforce training,” Parker said.
Parker said the mission includes establishing a partnership through schools and other Hancock County stakeholders.
“We also believe we need a standalone career center supported by schools, businesses and the country leaders, so we can have the highest level of collaboration,” Parker said. “We also need to work differently in communicating opportunities and messaging the value of workforce training and technical education pathways for our students as well as the rest of the communities, even those that have graduated from high school.
“Certifications and dual credits are really what we are working on.”
Seeking more certification programs
Parker said the initiative aligns with the state’s goal to increase Indiana residents’ opportunities to receive certification in various trades.
“We recognize these opportunities we are trying to build for our students are best done at a scale where we all can collaborate,” Parker said.
A timetable hasn’t been set for establishing the career center.
“There is absolutely an interest in several of our county leaders to continue engaging in this discussion,” Parker said.
County students attend places like Walker Career Center and J. Everett Light Career Center in Indianapolis. Anderson and New Castle also have career centers.
Although the programming hasn’t been set, Parker said it can be integrated with workforce training and used for more than eight hours a day.
“We envision some of our community colleges wanting to offer our community members dual credit in career technical education and workforce training,” Parker said. “That can happen during the day or evening.”
Currently, students attend area schools for specific training. For example, Greenfield-Central has a heating and air conditioning program that Mt. Vernon students attend.
“We collaborate on aeronautics and flight school,” Parker said. “We send kids to each other and we also have our own internal programs. We just build this and scale it so there are more opportunities for kids. We can’t build all of the opportunities the students need in each of our four schools. It we do so that would dilute those courses.”
Wilkison said there is a nationwide concern about finding people to work in the trades, such as heating and air, plumbing, electrical and auto mechanics.
“Especially in this area, a program I’ve looked at is construction,” Wilkison said. “The area is exploding, so we need people to build homes.”