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ECO-15 Grant

Huffman hired to lead
Lilly funded educational initiative

Program is designed to promote
education in manufacturing

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(August 2008) – The Community Found-ation of Madison and Jefferson County continues to develop a strategy for using a $900,000 grant to enhance educational opportunities for those workers in manufacturing. The foundation is participating in a regional initiative conceived by the Heritage Fund-the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County and funded with a $38 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.
The 10 Indiana counties participating in the economic development project are Jefferson, Jackson, Switzerland, Ohio, Ripley, Franklin, Decatur, Dearborn, Bartholomew and Jennings. Each of those county’s community foundations is eligible for grants from Heritage Fund to develop and administer programs in their own county.
The new initiative, called Economic Opportunities 2015, or EcO15, will bring a specialized education curriculum, Advanced Manufacturing Education, into junior and senior high schools in the participating counties, as well as make the training available to the local workforce.
Kathy Huffman, a board member of the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County, has been hired to be the EcO15 Coordinator for Jefferson County. She has worked with local officials, industry leaders and educators to put together a comprehensive plan that will offer innovative training to students and workers.
“We are excited about EcO15. It is a win-win situation for both our education system and manufacturers,” she said. “It will offer more educational opportunities for students, supply manufacturers with highly skilled, ready-to-work employees and provide new economic opportunities for our community.”
As part of the project, high school students in the area will be able to participate in a two-year program called Manufacturing Skills Standards Certification. “MSSC is cutting edge curriculum that has only been implemented in two states at this point, Indiana and Texas,” said Huffman. “It takes manufacturing training to a higher level and gives an edge to students considering a career in advanced manufacturing.”
Louise Markel, president of Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County, said statistics show that nearly one in three residents in southeastern Indiana, or 38,000 people, work in manufacturing and there is a real, industry-wide need for skilled employees. Over the next few years, it is predicted that 6,500 additional advanced manufacturing positions will be added to the region. The new Eco15 initiative will help train students in the area to fill those positions.
“There is a perception that manufacturing is moving overseas,” she said. “But our area is staying competitive, and initiatives such as this one will help manufacturers stay in our area and will help attract new manufacturing.”
Huffman said the MSSC program will be a benefit to schools for several reasons. It will help students who want to go to work right out of high school get ready for a manufacturing career. It will also offer a two-year degree for students who may not want to go to a university, and it will give students considering a business career a solid base.
“It fills the gap for those middle students who aren’t necessarily planning to go right into a four-year college,” she said.
The curriculum is set to be implemented in area schools in fall 2009. The first students to complete the coursework will graduate in 2011. The curriculum has been approved for students who are currently working toward either a Core 40 or a Core 40 Technical Honors degree.
Huffman said school counselors are working on career awareness projects that will also make parents aware of the new educational opportunity for students, and manufacturers have been asked for input on how EcO15 and MSSC training could best help those already employed in manufacturing jobs in the community.
Under the new Eco15 initiative, Huffman said a pre-engineering program for junior high students is also being developed. Project Lead the Way will offer the Indiana Science Technology Engineering and Math curriculum to junior high students. Heavy in math, Huffman said ISTEM will fill a “critical need” for the community.
While, EcO15 is a three year plan that will continue through May 2011, Huffman said the Advanced Manufacturing Curriculum is “sustainable” for the long term. “The initial startup, which will include computer labs, equipment and teacher training, will incur the largest costs,” she said. “The financing to continue the program will not be that great, and there is Department of Education money and other funding available to continue with it.”

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