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Businesses: Offer different classes

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If local high school students can take geometry courses that combine math lessons with assignments they usually see in industrial arts class, that could be the first step toward preparing them to work for an Indianapolis manufacturer.

Jim Appleby, the training coordinator for machining at Major Tool in Indianapolis, wants students to learn earlier how to take dimensions from a drawing and convert them into coordinates or other numbers that they could use to manufacture a piece of equipment in the company’s factory.

At Major Tool, which provides manufacturing, engineering, fabrication and other services to clients, Appleby wants students to learn earlier how their math lessons apply to manufacturing.

“If (math) was taught with more of an applied emphasis, I think it would hit home better for the students and maybe motivate them more to open their eyes and see why (they) need to know this,” Appleby said.

Appleby was one of about 12 representatives from businesses and community colleges in the area who met with Central Nine Career Center officials and local superintendents last month to discuss how local high schools can better prepare students for local jobs that will be available in the next few years. The meeting also included Gabby VanAlstine from OneClick Ventures in Greenwood and representatives from Eli Lilly, Endress+Hauser and area hospitals.

Since the start of the school year, local school officials have been looking for ways to connect with local employers to learn what courses they need to offer so students can more easily find jobs after they graduate. That desire is part of what led to last month’s meeting. Central Nine also wants to begin forming partnerships with businesses so that students interested in careers in manufacturing, health care, computer science and other fields can get experience job shadowing and interning.

Greenwood Superintendent Kent DeKoninck knows area businesses want students with strong math skills, and last month’s meeting gave officials a chance to start thinking about whether they need to change or adjust any of their courses. DeKoninck wants to continue meeting with local businesses so that he and other superintendents can learn more about the specific skills employers want from high school graduates.

After the meeting, Appleby and VanAlstine were hopeful that schools soon will offer courses that will help students be more qualified to work in their businesses.

“I came away from (the meeting) pretty excited. It seemed like the superintendents were really on board with our message,” Appleby said.

OneClick Ventures, which sells products online, now employs about 60 people, but that number could double in the next two years, VanAlstine said. Some of those workers, including Web developers and marketing professionals, will need to have a college degree. But other employees, such as those working in customer service or packing and shipping orders, will not.

The most important skills students need to start learning in high school are how to conduct themselves in job interviews and how to start creating resumes, VanAlstine said. And while most high schools already offer business courses, they can do more to teach students how businesses today continually change the way they work online, such as how they’re using social media, she said.

Appleby is hopeful that teachers and guidance counselors will spend more time talking with students about the opportunities they can find as a machinist or manufacturer if they have the necessary math skills.

“It seems like the kids aren’t really getting information about opportunities in manufacturing. So they don’t seek out those types of careers,” Appleby said.

Appleby wants guidance counselors to spend more time talking with high school students about the kinds of jobs they can have in technical careers. Since the mid-1980s, Appleby has worked as a machinist, an inspector, an engineer, a supervisor and now a training coordinator.

If students know earlier what kinds of math and other skills they’ll need to work as machinists or in other technical trades, then they can decide earlier whether that’s a career they want to pursue, Appleby said. They’ll also be better prepared for the kinds of courses they’ll take if they decide to earn an associate’s degree from Ivy Tech Community College or a similar institution, he said.

This year, Major Tool is looking to hire about 60 more employees and, depending on the economy, could add hundreds more jobs over the next five years, Appleby said. Prospective machinists with an associate’s degree or high school graduates with experience as a machinist could make $20-plus per hour or more by their mid-20s, and with overtime they could make six figures per year, Appleby said.

“There’s not a lot of college graduates with bachelor’s degrees at that age that are making that kind of money,” he said.

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