By Lisa Trigg CNHI News Service
---- — TERRE HAUTE — Uplifting Terre Haute and the Vigo County school system as an example of how career and technical education is key to the state’s future, Gov. Mike Pence unveiled a map of 11 regions for the Indiana Works Councils during his visit to Terre Haute South Vigo High School on Wednesday.
“We just really did believe that Vigo County School Corporation and this high school is the right place to launch our Indiana Works Council,” Pence said from a podium in the career technology room. Pence commended not only the 94.3-percent graduation rate of the school system, but also noted a 96.5-percent graduate rate for students in the career and technical education curriculum.
“It’s accurate to say this school corporation is a model for career and technical education in the state of Indiana,” Pence said. “All honest work is honorable work, and Indiana’s schools should work just as well for our kids who want to get a job as they do for our kids who want to get a college degree.”
In August, the governor will begin to announce appointments to the Indiana Works Council, which was passed by the state Legislature and signed into law by Pence in April. Each council is responsible for preparing and submitting a comprehensive evaluation of the available career, technical and vocational education opportunities for high schoolers in its region; the reports are due to governor and the Education Roundtable by Nov. 1.
Doug Dillion, career and technical education director for Vigo schools, said the number of Vigo County students in the CTE program has increased dramatically in recent years, Dillion said, with more than 4,700 middle school and high school students enrolled in the program this past school year. And, the programs are attracting female students, which is a big change from 10 years ago.
“It’s a significant shift,” Dillion said of student interest in technical jobs, which in many industries pay as much or more than salaries earned in white-collar positions.
The importance of the CTE training was validated by Tom Barnett of Tri Aerospace, one of the local industry partners that works with the school system. The company recently hired a Terre Haute North Vigo High School graduate whose training included an internship with Tri Aerospace.
“This training is important in our industry,” Barnett said.
Dillion agreed. “Industry is starved for workers now, and these aren’t low-level, low-price jobs. These are high-wage, high-skill jobs,” he said.
A lot of high school students are at risk of falling through the cracks because they don’t see the relevance of finishing high school if they are not immediately continuing on to college, Gov. Pence said. But those who get that high school degree and a work certificate, he said, could walk into a well-paying job straight out of high school.
“This is not about limiting opportunities,” Pence said. “I have lost count of the men and women who have come up to me and said they have a vocational degree, and now they are running a company.”
The governor said that he intends to make technical and vocational education a priority in every high school.
“It’s already happened in Vigo County,” Pence said, commending Supt. Danny Tanoos for having the vision to work with local industry to educate the future workforce. “I believe building on this framework and accelerating the collaboration will make Indiana a leader in the nation in career education.”