Vincennes University's role is "critical" for Indiana's changing economy

Vincennes University's role is "critical" for Indiana's changing economy

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April 02, 2019

April 2, 2019 / Vincennes University’s role is “critical” for Indiana’s changing economy
Part 1 of a multi-part series

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - A March 29 symposium co-sponsored by Vincennes University and Conexus Indiana, “Solving the Indiana Skills Gap, How the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Work-Learn Pipeline Partnership Succeeds,” brought together influential business leaders, educational partners, and statewide stakeholders at VU’s Aviation Technology Center to share success stories and to explore how to build on existing successful workforce development partnership efforts.

Long recognized for the quality of its academic programs and graduates, especially in technical fields, VU continues to lead the way in developing education and work-based learning partnerships that are filling Indiana’s need for a skilled workforce of tomorrow.

“The role Vincennes [University] plays in linking high school, higher education, and Indiana employers is critical to our state’s ability to keep pace with a rapidly changing economy,” confirmed Danny Lopez, chair of the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet.

As Indiana manufacturers struggle to fill current vacancies and forecast future needs, work-learn pipeline models - such as Career and Technical Education (CTE) Early College and VU’s partnerships with leading employers - have emerged as solutions to developing talented and qualified candidate pools for every region. Demand is high for advanced manufacturing talent in Indiana. There are more than 14,900 available jobs, according to the state’s Next Level Jobs initiative website.

“The old model, where first you learn and then you earn, is simply an outdated way of thinking about education,” said Lopez.

Vincennes University is considered by many as one of the nation’s best advanced manufacturing schools. More than 20 leading Indiana manufacturing employers - including Toyota, Subaru, Jasper Engines, and Kimball International - have partnered with VU to address the skills gap head-on.

“Vincennes University and our manufacturing partners are really driving good, quality education to further manufacturing and logistics in Indiana,” stated Brad Rhorer, chief talent programs officer for Conexus Indiana.

“It's very important that we do this in order to maintain our GDP [gross domestic product] and the growth of our state.”

VU introduced the concept of CTE Early Colleges a few years ago. Now, with support from the Legislature and in partnership with career centers and high schools, VU is helping to address the need for an educated and skilled workforce by expanding the CTE Early College model throughout the state. Through CTE Early College, high school students are offered a higher education experience that prepares them to simultaneously work toward a certificate or an associate degree while earning a high school diploma. Many students are workforce-ready right out of high school or ready to advance their education on an accelerated path at VU or other Indiana colleges and universities. The program offers students a chance to gain valuable insight and experience in career fields, enables them to develop workforce-ready skills, and saves thousands of dollars on future college credits - all while still in high school.

Vincennes University President, Chuck Johnson shared with symposium participants, “Indiana has a focus on CTE Education and critical middle-skilled career pathways that is making our state the envy of others. VU, working with partners in industry, K-12, and higher education throughout Indiana, has established innovative programs that are helping Indiana leap ahead of other states in addressing the critical skills gap.”

Afternoon symposium sessions provided overviews of Vincennes University's CTE Early College and work-based learning programs. Participants heard about the CTE work-learn pipeline partnership efforts from both the K-12 educator and the employer's perspectives.

An afternoon session moderated by Rhorer featured a panel of VU work-based learning employer partners. Panelists representing Cummins, Toyota, and North American Lighting described how their programs are working to fill their pipelines with the talent critical to the continued growth and success of their businesses. Panelists discussed how they have partnered with VU to address the unique challenges they face in attracting and developing the workforce of tomorrow.

“We’ve got a tool and die facility in Elberfeld, Indiana. We’ve got a major expansion coming up and with that major expansion is going to come a need for that skilled tool and die trade,” said Robert Woolum, corporate trainer for North American Lighting.

“To be able to fill that pipeline, we partner with VU with their MIP (Machining Internship Program)…to get those employees that we are going to need,” Woolum concluded.

A partnership between Porter County Education Services and Vincennes University has resulted in a very successful CTE Early College program at the Porter County Career and Technical Center.

“Vincennes has been a major contributor in helping us solve our local workforce shortage in qualified manufacturing candidates,” said Jon Groth, director and principal for Porter County Career and Technical Education.

Panelist Pam Mishler-Fish, VU site director, Porter County Career Center (PCCC), stated, “I am thrilled to talk about our precision machining program. Students love it, staff and faculty love it, and industry loves it. We know that we are offering our students first-class, up-to-date, top-of-the-line education.”

As CTE Early College takes hold, employers are seeing the benefit of developing a skilled local workforce with the help of VU.

Two Porter County employers, Task Force Tips and Urschel Laboratories, hire student interns from the CTE Early College precision machining program at PCCC and support them through the completion of their VU associate degree program over the next two years. The result is a pipeline of local machining talent prepared with the skills and education developed at both the career center and in VU’s highly regarded program.

Toyota’s Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program, the Advanced Internship in Manufacturing (AIM) in the Lafayette region, and the Career Advancement Partnership (CAP) in Jasper have all been developed to address critical shortages in the skilled workforce in each of these regions. These programs combine work-based learning with a high-quality VU education and students can earn a VU associate degree through a customized schedule.

Graduates of these programs have career opportunities with partner employers and their skill sets are highly sought by industry throughout the state. According to VU’s employer partners, program graduates can earn $50,000 or more annually immediately after graduation and many graduates earn six figures within a few years.

VINCENNES UNIVERSITY - Indiana’s First College

VU is state-supported with campuses in Vincennes and Jasper, the Aviation Technology Center and American Sign Language program in Indianapolis, Early College Career and Technical Education Centers, and additional sites such as the Gene Haas Training and Education Center in Lebanon, the Logistics Training and Education Center in Plainfield, and the Gibson County Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics in Fort Branch. A leader in developing Early Colleges statewide, VU also offers instruction at military sites throughout the nation.

In addition to offering a wide range of associate degree and certificate programs, VU also offers bachelor’s degree programs in technology, homeland security, nursing, secondary education programs in mathematics and science, and special education/elementary education.

VU enrolls students from throughout Indiana, 35 other states, and 17 countries. Tuition and fees are the lowest among Indiana campuses with residence halls. VU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Founded in 1801, VU is Indiana’s first college and is the only college in the nation founded by an individual who would later become President of the United States. William Henry Harrison, the ninth U.S. President, founded VU while serving as governor of the Indiana Territory. More information is available at


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