Originally published in The News Dispatch on 11/30/13.

Providing workforce with opportunities

As previously reported, Michigan City will be the first in the state to pilot a partnership to offer area high school students hands-on construction training from industry professionals for dual credit and direct entry into a carpentry apprenticeship program.

What many local residents may not know, however, is the behind-the-scenes work from the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City, Indiana (EDCMC) and other partners on guiding the program into a reality.

Just this past April, EDCMC announced it was embarking upon a process to develop a comprehensive and innovative, long-term action initiative. Through the initiative, several key economic development opportunities were identified, including aligning workforce development and education with existing and targeted industry needs.

After a series of collaborative taskforce committee meetings, organized by EDCMC, attendees helped create a step-by-step plan of action toward a healthier and more competitive marketplace in Michigan City. During the meetings, committee members openly discussed problematic issues within the community and brainstormed solutions.

Joe Coar was one of nearly two dozen business, civic, education and committee leaders to attend the Workforce Development & Education taskforce committee in late summer. According to Coar, who serves as the Vice President at Tonn and Blank Construction, his company struggled to recruit local qualified applicants. He believed his company, and others in the area with good-paying jobs available, would benefit from bringing additional construction training to the youth.

Fellow EDCMC taskforce committee member and Director of La Porte County Career and Technical Education, Audra Peterson, teamed up to find ways to expand the A.K. Smith Career Center’s already-existing Construction Technology program with hands-on training from experts in the field.

As a resource for new or existing businesses, EDCMC continued to support the endeavor and helped to connect the dots further. Soon Peterson and Coar, who serves on the Executive Board of the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship and Training Fund (JATC), combined with the organization.

Together, a new partnership was formed to bring La Porte County high school students expanded construction curriculum offering dual credit and direct entry into a professional carpentry training program. More importantly, because of the hard work of so many partners, Michigan City is the first in the state to offer this exciting new program. Now, students have the opportunity to accomplish a rewarding and successful career path.

The partnership – between the La Porte County Career and Technical Education program, Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, EDCMC, Ivy Tech Community College and Michigan City Area Schools – provides students studying construction at the A.K. Smith Career Center the new “Career Connections” curriculum beginning immediately. All students from La Porte County’s six public high schools may participate in the program.

Upon completion of the two-year program, students will earn 14 dual college credits through Ivy Tech and also be eligible for direct entry into the four-year carpentry apprenticeship. Students must complete the program with a GPA of 2.0 or better and attendance rate of 95 percent or higher, among other requirements.

There are no additional costs to students to enroll in the program. Students will learn decision making, goal setting and employability skills as well as to carpentry skills. In addition, students will be trained for a variety of careers, including: carpentry, plumbing, heating, masonry, drywall, roofing, insulation, electricity, interior decorating and finishing.

For more information about EDCMC, call (219) 873-1211 or visit www.edcmc.com.


La Porte County students interested in enrolling in the new “Career Connections” construction/carpentry program may do so through their high school guidance counselor. Additional details about the program are available at www.educatemc.net/careertech.