Leigh Morris: Ivy Tech Helps Northwest Indiana Achieve

Leigh-MorrisNorthwest Indiana has tremendous strengths in higher education with our four-year and graduate colleges and universities, but the four Region Ivy Tech campuses provide unique advantages.

The roots of Ivy Tech go back to 1963, when it focused primarily on technical and vocational education.

In the more than 50 years since, it’s gone through enormous changes. Today, it’s Indiana’s only full-fledged community college, offering more than 150 programs in the divisions of health, technology, business and public services and university/transfer, which offers more than 100 transfer programs with in-state and out-of-state schools.

Indiana was late to develop a statewide network of community colleges, but that may well be an advantage. Rather than a multitude of individual colleges with little coordination (Illinois has nearly 50 such colleges), Ivy Tech Community College is a unified system with individual campuses focused on meeting the needs of the regions and communities they serve.

Northwest Indiana benefits significantly from this pattern of development. We have the largest number of campuses of any region, serving more than 17,000 students in East Chicago, Gary, Valparaiso and Michigan City. It is an engine that drives workforce development and is another force that provides our region with an economic development advantage.

Ivy Tech has an incredibly important role in preparing individuals for entry-level positions in more than 30 occupational areas.

  • Ivy Tech’s relatively new Workforce Alignment Division focuses offers opportunities to adult workers to learn new skills for jobs of the future and enables employers to prepare for anticipated retirement of large numbers of skilled employees in well-compensated positions. Three NWI examples are noteworthy:
  • Steelworker of the Future is a 2.5-year degree program that includes four semesters of classroom training in which students will earn credits toward an associate’s degree in applied sciences. This can lead to highly technical, high-paying jobs needed in the steel industry and manufacturing in general.
  • Industrial Technology Maintenance Pre-Learner Training Program prepares individuals to become maintenance technicians with an electrical or a mechanical emphasis.
  • Energy Technology program prepares individuals for working in a variety of positions in the energy field. Students maintain, build, assess and design wind turbines systems, energy storage systems, solar photovoltaic systems, solar thermal systems and geothermal systems. They also design smart grid homes, are grid operators, power linemen, power plant operators and electricians.

Our Ivy Tech campuses also encourage high-schoolers to enroll in dual credit courses, which give them a head start for college. The partnership between Ivy Tech and our Region trade unions provides apprenticeship training in the skilled trades, which is critical to assure we can meet the construction and maintenance needs of employers.

Ivy Tech’s Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center for Excellence, housed at the Gary campus, promotes and celebrates creativity and the implementation of new ideas through its premier project, The Society of Innovators.

The partnership between Ivy Tech and Indiana business and industry makes it possible for Ivy Tech to be the most affordable college option, with annual tuition costs less than $4,000. As a result, graduates leave with little or low student debt.

Ivy Tech leadership appears to be determined to achieve. Hoosiers — especially those of us in NWI — will be the beneficiaries of that determination!