The Herald-Times

Pence’s plan for vocational education has role to play

Our Opinion
February 10, 2013

Gov. Mike Pence acknowledged his surroundings before continuing to talk about his passion for career, technical and vocational education in Indiana high schools.

“I know where I am. I’m in Bloomington,” he smiled during a meeting with the H-T editorial board. The point was, he knew he was in the city in Indiana that more than any other is committed to and champions the value of a college education … and, still, he was suggesting young people not go to college.

Well, that wasn’t exactly what he was suggesting. In fact, he said he would tell every child in the state  that they ought to go to college. But he does not believe every child wants to do so, or needs to do so, to build a successful and productive life. So he wants high schools to develop pathways to success other than the ones that lead to campuses in Bloomington, West Lafayette or elsewhere.

He’s not talking about “shop” or “industrial arts,” and he’s not talking about a one-size-fits-all plan for the state’s high schools. His idea is for regional councils involving educators and business leaders to decide what skill sets are needed for high school graduates to be competitive for a job in their area if they don’t want to go to college immediately. He wants high schools to be able to cater to those skill sets.

What he’s talking about sounds strikingly similar to the adaptability Ivy Tech Community College has developed at its Bloomington campus. He’s talking about clearing a path toward very specific jobs and opportunities in a particular region.

Ivy Tech-Bloomington has done this extremely well in a couple of well-known examples: in creating a strong radiation therapy program to prepare students to work at the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute (now the IU Health Proton Therapy Center) and a strong hospitality program to help train a work force for the French Lick Springs and West Baden Springs hotels as well as other jobs in the Orange County tourism region.

With those experiences and models in mind, developing high school pathways toward important certifications and skills training makes sense.
Still, the efforts have to complement the strong community college system that has been built in the last decade. It also must complement Indiana’s commitment to research universities, and not just as places students go on the way to a career.

Universities are not trade schools; they’re more like laboratories for absorbing life.

No, not everyone wants or needs to go to a university in order to be successful. But those who do choose higher education may well be exposed to lessons, perspectives, insights, awareness and wisdom they very likely would not have otherwise considered.

Let’s expand opportunities that will make high school students more ready for a career. But let’s also make sure they understand that the value of an education is not defined solely by job placement.

Copyright: 2013

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.