Greg Hildebrand, Allie Shook, and Jen Felke from the Lifelong Learning Network appeared before the Plymouth Common Council on July 11th seeking support for the creation of the Career Innovation Center.
Hildebrand told the City Council the Lifelong Learning Network has been around since the ’70s and is an organization that provides career technical education to the local area schools. They provide instructors for classes such as Building Construction, Health Careers, Welding, and Criminal Justice. It has been an all-volunteer organization until May when Allie Shook was hired as the Executive Director.
The idea of a Career Innovation Center has been in the works for nearly a year. When the READI Grant was announced the organization put the project in high gear to apply.
While the initial plan was to construct a new building, the inflation costs for building materials due to COVID have made that impossible. Allie Shook told the City Council the Career Center will move forward with or without the READI Grant. Looking for a more feasible plan.
The plan is to use the existing building currently housing the CTE program for Precision Machining behind the Plymouth High School and some inside PHS as well as some that are just classroom instruction without a lab situation at the Lincoln Education Center. They might even be able to offer an entrepreneurial course at the proposed E-Hub in downtown Plymouth in the future. Shook explained that all these locations can be accessed through the Greenway Trail or Safe Routes to Schools paths so students can walk or ride a bike to the various offerings.
Shook said the Troyer Group has created a rendering of the project showing the Marshall County Innovation Center welcoming space. It would house Precision Machining and Digital Manufacturing which is a new course coming to PHS this year and won’t be a shared program at this time because there is so much interest from PHS students. She said Adult Basic Ed and workforce training are also in the building. This way adults would not need to enter the school to participate in the programs.
Shook said there are over 400 students in the shared programs currently and they expect that number to grow with the additional programs they plan to add.
The offerings will provide opportunities for workforce development and adult basic education as well as the CTE course already being offered and programs for early childhood.
Hildebrand said having all the programs within a walking distance can make it easier for areas schools to provide bus transportation so students wouldn’t have to drive.
Jen Felke, Executive Director of the North Central Career and Technical Education Cooperative told the City Council the CTE program is a cooperative of 10 local school corporations primarily being offered in Plymouth and Knox but a few in the other schools. She said Knox is putting on a CTE wing that will open in October.
The needs of local manufacturers are being addressed with a new course offering at Plymouth through a $100,000 CONEXUS Grant for equipment. This program will not only serve students but can benefit adults seeking to improve their skills.
The ask on July 11th was a letter of support for the READI Grant application. They hope in the future to seek public dollars for the project.
Councilman Don Ecker motioned to provide a letter of support which was unanimously approved. Councilman Randy Longanecker said it is exciting news for him on two levels because he has a son who is a junior in high school and travels to Knox for Auto Tech and as an employer the building trades course is beneficial to students entering the workforce after high school with training.