MICHIGAN CITY — Michigan City High School students seeking to pursue a career in advanced manufacturing can now graduate as a Certified Production Technician.

The designation, which includes specific industry credentials and work experience, is now available after the school was certified as a State Earn and Learn program earlier this week.

MCHS partnered with several compressed air companies in the area to launch the Compressed Air Academy last fall. It allows high school students to get industry-tailored instruction, hands-on experience with equipment, on-the-job training and opportunities to continue their education or enter the workforce upon graduation.

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development is helping to skill-up the state’s workforce by developing and facilitating comprehensive work-based learning programs with education and industry partners, offering SEAL certificates to employers and high schools through its Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship, according to Darrel Zeck, executive director of DWD’s Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship.

During a ceremony Tuesday, Michigan City Area Schools administrators, employers and community partners gathered to accept the certification from DWD officials of the Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship.

“We have multiple schools and companies currently utilizing SEALs to advance Indiana’s workforce,” Zeck said.

“Michigan City High School is a big addition to the SEAL certification initiative and its mission to help provide Indiana employers with a skilled workforce.”

SEALs are structured, scalable programs ranging from just eight weeks to two years in length and include industry certifications tailored for any sector, he said.

They are designed to meet the skills that employers demand, are geared toward both adult and youth populations, and satisfy Indiana’s new graduation pathway requirements.

For MCHS, the Compressed Air Academy is a partnership involving the Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City and compressed air companies Sullair, Boss Industries, Dekker Vacuum Technologies, Sullivan-Palatek, Compress Air, Mikropor, Cook Compression, Freezing Systems and Services, LEFCO, Midstates Refrigeration and Supply, and Vanair.

Three of the companies donated industry-grade air compressors and vacuum systems for the classroom, and several consulted with MCAS educators as they designed the program, Zeck said. One even shared its training manual to aid in development of the curriculum.

Beyond that, companies are mentoring students, hosting field trips, and offering paid internships, according to Barbara Eason-Watkins, MCAS superintendent.

“From the outset, businesses understood that they would need to have a deep level of involvement to ensure students’ success,” she said. “They were eager to help us and are committed to continuing this work.”

To give the program additional credibility, the school system sought out the state’s SEAL program.

“SEAL certification shows that our program has been vetted and approved at the state level,” Eason-Watkins said. “This demonstrates to industry that we are offering a high-quality, results-oriented pathway for our students.”

MCHS piloted the program during the 2018-19 school year, with seven students enrolled. Now in its first full year, the academy has grown to 45 students.

The curriculum, designed by school and industry leaders, centers on the operation, troubleshooting and repair of compressors and incorporates National Center for Construction Education and Research materials that offer certificates for each level of completion.

Dual credit in advanced manufacturing is offered to students of the academy through Ivy Tech Community College. Students in the program can earn up to 21 credits over four years in addition to six industry-recognized certifications.

DWD projects Indiana employers will need to fill 1 million additional jobs in the next 10 years, Zeck said, half of which will not require a four-year college degree, but some type of certification or credential beyond a diploma.

The WBL program is part of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s NextLevel Jobs initiative.

For more information about the SEAL program or the Compressed Air Academy, email the DWD at wbl@dwd.in.gov.

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