VU Jasper partnerships serve as a model for Indiana in workforce and education alignment

VU Jasper partnerships serve as a model for Indiana in workforce and education alignment

Dr. Katie Jenner (photo credit: Indiana Department of Education website)

September 09, 2021

JASPER, Ind. – Education is the foundation on which bright futures are built. Vincennes University Jasper is at the forefront of connecting Dubois County students with transformative educational opportunities in high-wage, in-demand careers and collaborating with industry partners to develop a modern and uniquely skilled workforce.

VU Jasper has cultivated a hub of innovation and learning in southern Indiana through a variety of means. It contributes to prosperity and progress in the region by equipping Hoosiers with the knowledge and skills to enter and compete in a 21st-century workforce. The University's powerful K-12 partnerships, cutting-edge work-and-learn class format, and high-quality industry training were the centerpiece during a recent campus visit by Indiana Secretary of Education Dr. Katie Jenner.

A former career and technical teacher, Jenner recognizes the value in students learning specific career knowledge, skills, and credentials through high-impact and bold programs.

"By bringing so many community partners together, including our K-12 schools, Vincennes University Jasper is empowering pathways to lifelong success for Hoosier students across the region," Jenner said. "Through these partnerships, students are gaining access to quality work-based learning and the opportunity to earn intentional postsecondary credentials, including industry certifications. We know that schools cannot do this work alone, and this is an excellent example of how K-12, higher education, and industry are working together to make a difference for individual students and the local community."

Dubois County is a vital manufacturing stronghold in the furniture, electronics, automotive, and poultry industries. VU Jasper is leading initiatives that benefit the region and make a difference in the lives of Hoosiers.

"VU Jasper is the perfect model of what a modern community college should look like in the 21st century," VU President Dr. Chuck Johnson said. "The campus serves today’s learners by helping to bridge the path from K-12 to higher education and career and offers area Hoosiers opportunities to develop skills and knowledge that employers need. For half a century, VU Jasper has been a valuable partner for the region and the economy of Dubois County. With every new partnership opportunity and innovative program, VUJ becomes even more vital to the community."

Dr. Jenner, second from left, with VU representatives and local leaders inside the VU Jasper Center for Technology, Innovation, and Manufacturing

Dr. Jenner, second from left, with VU representatives and local leaders inside the VU Jasper Center for Technology, Innovation, and Manufacturing

Changing world, emerging needs

We live in an increasingly automated world where new and emerging technologies are driving change in all industries.

The Automation and Robotics Academy (ARA) is a groundbreaking program immersing high school juniors and seniors in the Patoka Valley Career and Technical Cooperative within an apprenticeship-type environment in the state-of-the-art 54,000 square-foot Center for Technology, Innovation and Manufacturing (CTIM) on the VU Jasper Campus. Students gain real-world experience in advanced manufacturing as industries strive to fill skilled, high-demand labor needs in Dubois County and surrounding areas. They learn about robotics, industrial automation controls, electronics, hydraulics, pneumatics, and other related topics. They also receive both high school and college credit and earn a paycheck while working in an internship for industry partners. 

The ARA is a collaboration among VU Jasper, the Patoka Valley CTE Cooperative, and Hub 19, a career and innovation hub supporting Dubois County. In Fall 2017, the four Dubois County school corporations began a rigorous grant process through a Regional Opportunity Initiative Ready Schools Initiative. The initiative is a design-thinking framework that supports school districts in aligning their Pre-K-12 curriculum and programming with the educational and workforce needs of Dubois County.

Collaborations like these are essential to developing the best talent for businesses and industries and open the door of opportunity to potential career paths. All of which impacts the region’s economy and betters the community.  

The Patoka Valley CTE Cooperative and VU Jasper have forged a powerful partnership. Due to the success of the ARA, additional pathways for high school students were launched in Aviation Operations, Construction Trades, IT, Cybersecurity, Business Administration, Emergency Medical Technician, and Health Science. The ARA and Construction Trades programs have the distinction of being an Indiana State Earn and Learn (SEAL) program, a designation awarded by the Indiana Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship (OWBLA).

Another stellar VU Jasper program is the Career Advancement Partnership (CAP). CAP is a major workforce development initiative between VU Jasper and local companies. VU Jasper students learn high-demand industrial maintenance skills while working internships with industry partners, including Indiana Furniture, Jasper Engines and Transmissions, Kimball Electronics, Kimball International, MasterBrand Cabinets, Farbest Foods, and Best Home Furnishings. The work/learn format allows students to graduate with an associate degree after two years and, in many cases, earn enough money to offset the cost of the degree.

According to VU Jasper Assistant Vice-President and Dean Christian Blome, "Dubois County has long been known for its entrepreneurial spirit and forward-thinking mindset when it comes to business and industry. The same can be said of our education systems, and now we have brought these two powerhouses together to create a truly remarkable approach to workforce attraction and development. The level of collaboration between education and industry in our region is rarely seen across the country, and it is a huge win for our economy and an even bigger win for students!"

Dr. Jenner talks with VU Jasper student Tucker Neukam, VU President Dr. Chuck Johnson, and CTIM Director Jacob Berg

Dr. Jenner talks with VU Jasper student Tucker Neukam, VU President Dr. Chuck Johnson, and CTIM Director Jacob Berg

Gateway to Opportunity

VU Jasper offers a broad range of 25 programs of study, including nursing, technology, business, information technology, social work, and more.

Through investments by Vincennes University, VUJ is continuously adapting to meet current and emerging educational and career needs.

With funding from the Lilly Endowment, the University and VUJ are expanding their partnerships with local schools to enhance learning and career awareness in critical Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.  VU is partnering with the Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC) at Purdue to place Design & Innovation Studios in elementary schools, launching a summer STEM academy for area high school students, and adding a new collaborative robot (cobot) lab in the VUJ CTIM Building.

In a rapidly-changing world, individuals need a mix of new and transferable skills. VU Jasper provides industry training in various fields, including certified nursing assistant, industrial maintenance, dental assistant, hydraulics/pneumatics, and others to help individuals get a leg up on the competition and transform their lives.

From its founding in 1970, VU Jasper has focused on expanding access to higher education and far-reaching opportunities. The campus has a rich history, and that history is woven tightly with the Dubois County community. It continues to build upon its mission by educating and inspiring current students and future generations with relevant programs and strategic partnerships that will drive new possibilities for the region.