During Monday’s County Commissioner meeting representatives from the Lifelong Learning Network asked the county for financial support in the creation of a Career Innovation Center that would be located in Plymouth. 

Board member Greg Hildebrand and newly hired Executive Director Allie Shook told the commissioners they are moving forward with plans to build the center and plan to apply for the READI grant.  The READI grant provided 20% and requires a 20% public match with 60% of the funding coming from private donations from companies, industries, local citizens, and educational entities.

Hildebrand said they knew the commissioners were working on allocating ARP Funds and requested $2 million. 

Shook said the CTE (career and technical education) program in the high school is primarily for juniors and seniors but the state has done some reconfiguring and they can start earlier.  She said there are hundreds of kids in the CTE programs in Marshall County and we are at or over capacity in welding, building trades, and digital manufacturing which is smart technology. The Digital Manufacturing class is only offered at Plymouth this year and 10% of the student population has requested to be in the first year.  The course touches on robotics, cobots, cybersecurity, and advanced manufacturing.    

Shook said they just don’t have the space to house some of the programs they would like to have students skilled in. The center would also train the workforce in the evenings.  Employees could be upskilled and have courses from various higher education schools that could offer courses.      

Commissioners Overmyer asked about students going over to the SCILL Center in Knox and Hildebrand said it’s troublesome because students from Triton have to drive an hour to get there and they are in a different time zone which would be a 2-hour difference. 

Overmyer asked if the Career Center was predicated on successfully getting a READI Grant or do you need the funding in place before applying for the READI Grant. 

Hildebrand said, “We would like to get the READI Grant to help fund the center, but this project will move forward READI Grant or not.  It’s something that is needed.”

Shook said, “We recognize that capacity is obviously an issue, and we need to address that in one way or another.  No matter where the money comes from or what amount we get we are going to use what we can and leverage it as much as we possibly can to get the best center we can and provide more for our county.”

Commissioner Mike Burroughs asked how much of a READI Grant the Lifelong Learning Center was applying for and Hildebrand said they weren’t sure yet but their working budget is about $10 million. 

The timeline for the READI Grant looks like applications will be due at the end of this month and in the fall, they will designate the grants.  Hildebrand said they are working with a realtor on some property and architects involved in working drawings. 

Commissioner Stan Klotz noted that the Elkhart Career Center primarily operated with grants and private partnerships.  “While I totally support what you are trying to do, we have infrastructure problems around here with roads too, so that is something that needs to be considered. 

The County Commissioners did not make any decision on the request.