Students often ask teachers why they should learn a particular lesson and whether they ever would need that knowledge in the real world.

Several local teachers are making sure that what they teach in the classroom does apply to the working world.

Three local educators are taking days out of school to job-shadow at companies in central Indiana. The teachers can learn what professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers do every day on the job, which the teachers can use to better inform high school students about potential career choices.

Two teachers from Center Grove High School and one teacher from Greenwood Community High School are participating in the program, which is being paid for with a $126,900 grant the Central Nine Career Center received from the Indiana Works Council. Companies offered free internships so that teachers can see what software, methods and training are needed for STEM-based careers.

Each school district is also eligible for $7,500 worth of STEM training or equipment through the grant, Central Nine Career Center assistant director Nicole Otte said.

Central Nine was able to offer a new industrial repair and maintenance class to get students in four different career fields, including welding and electronics. The grant also is paying $9,500 toward a fifth- through eighth-grade manufacturing camp, so students can be exposed to STEM-based careers at a younger age.

Endress+Hauser in Greenwood, Caterpillar Remanufacturing in Franklin and Major Tool and Machine in Indianapolis opened their doors to the teachers this spring.

Exposing the teachers to what careers are available in engineering, technology and manufacturing also can help local companies find young recruits to join their businesses, Caterpillar Remanufacturing operations manager Don Kinsey said.

“The jobs in manufacturing today aren’t necessarily what they were 10 to 15 years ago, where the perception was if you went to work at a factory, that would be your job for the rest of your life,” Kinsey said.

Bringing in teachers and students through field trips or job shadow experiences helps to break that stigma, he said. Students often assume that a four-year degree is required to be in the engineering field, even though two-year associate’s degrees and certificate-based positions are also available, he said.

“You don’t necessarily need to be an engineer to succeed in STEM,” Kinsey said.

This is the first partnership for local businesses to work with Central Nine, but Otte said more field trips, job shadowing and internship opportunities will hopefully be available in the future.

This kind of professional relationship will yield great dividends for both the students and the companies. Schools turn out better workers, and a better-educated workforce helps existing companies and makes the area more attractive to firms looking to relocate or expand.

At issue

Local teachers are job-shadowing at nearby companies to learn whether their lessons properly prepare students for the workforce.

Our point

This kind of cooperation will benefit the students, the participating companies and the area as a whole.