A class of 21 Center Grove students has to design a distribution center from scratch, but the students can draw from first-hand experience to create their faux factories.

In a program at Center Grove High School entering its second year, students can learn about the manufacturing industry by visiting local companies such as NSK Precision America and Heartland Machine and Engineering.

The Hire Tech program allows students to earn college credits through Ivy Tech Community College as well as industry certifications in trade skills, such as CNC machining or distribution, before graduating. Students can earn up to six college credits and three certifications per semester of the course.

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Center Grove students take the first year of the program at their high school, while the second year of the class is finished at the Central Nine Career Center, said teacher Brent Schulz. The class enrollment has risen from nine students last year to 21 this school year, he said.

“A lot of this is about facilities and the whole manufacturing process — from the raw materials to the time they have to ship it out — everything they have to go through,” sophomore Cliff Fisher said.

Other central Indiana high schools, such as Shelbyville, Plainfield and Mooresville, also offer the program, said Ivy Tech Franklin campus president Tina Gross.

While in the class, students learn about how a manufacturing company works, the specific machinery used and how distribution is handled. Throughout the semester, the class has taken field trips to NSK and Heartland Machine and Engineering to see how manufacturing and distribution centers work, from start to finish. For example, at NSK, students saw raw materials such as sheets of metal get turned into bearings and then distributed, senior Anthony Vasquez said.

“It kind of brings the notes to life,” sophomore McKenzie Ritter said.

And seeing the machinery used in businesses allows students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom. For example, Fisher appreciated seeing equipment, such as CNC machines, used in factories because he plans on doing hands-on work in manufacturing in the future, he said. In the fall, Fisher wants to attend Central Nine Career Center, and wants as much exposure to machinery as possible before going to the vocational school, he said.

“The machining aspects are more interesting to me, so I thought that this class would be good for me since they didn’t have just fabrication at C-9,” Fisher said.

Earning certifications in industry-specific trade skills will allow students to get a job right out of high school, or they could be used as a way to get unique internships, Ritter said.

“It’s just knowledge on the machines, basically. You could take it anywhere and get a really good job,” Ritter said.

But not every student automatically gets the certifications, she said. Students have to get a “B” average on the quizzes in the class in order to receive the certifications, she said.

While students are in the classroom, they are tasked with creating a product and building a distribution center from scratch to manufacture that product. For another class project, students had to create the best shipping mechanism for light bulbs. Then, Schulz shipped the packages to a relative in Wisconsin. Students are slated to get their shipments back soon to see how their creative packaging techniques fared.

Students who take the class are considering both four-year college degrees in manufacturing or engineering, as well as attending a vocational school or getting an associates degree.

While Ritter wants to major in constructional engineering, Vasquez plans on majoring in finance or business to hopefully work on the financial side of a manufacturing company, he said. Fisher expects to earn a few industry certifications before graduating but might also attend a vocational school, he said.

Schulz is hoping to visit at least one more business, such as Ingram Micro in Plainfield, before the end of the semester. The business delivers technology and other services to businesses, he said.

What is Hire Tech?

Center Grove High School is in its second year of offering the Hire Tech program, where students can earn college credits and industry certifications during the semester.

What is Hire Tech?

A two-year curriculum that is offered to schools in Indiana. It is an initiative from Conexus Indiana and Ivy Tech Community College. So far, only Central Nine Career Center and Center Grove High School offer the program in Johnson County.

What do students learn in the class?

Manufacturing, including distribution, shipping and transportation, robotics operations, hydraulic power systems and logistics.

What is the benefit of taking the class?

Students can earn up to six college credits from Ivy Tech per semester, as well as industry certifications in skills, such as CNC machining or distribution.