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Elwood's Hinds Career Center helps students in 7 districts find their career path

Posted: 7:50 AM, Aug 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-23 07:50:20-04
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In the quiet, small Madison County town of Elwood, you'll find a place helping teenagers make big plans.

The Hinds Career Center, on North 19th Street, brings together hundreds of students who are already thinking about the future.

In fact, you'll find Zack Whiteaker, 17, inside, lighting the spark to jump start his career.

Sitting in front of his dimming helmet atop his head, Zack says, "I want to be a welder when i grow up. I've been working hard in this class. I have 3 certifications and i'm hoping to make that a career and retire from it."

Not far from where Zack is working on his welding skills, you'll find Bo Bailey, who is in his senior year.

He is learning what it takes to become a machinist and excelling at the craft, which is in high demand these days.

"I love this," he says, "I love coming here to school. It's actually really relaxing. It's not constant paperwork. You just turn on the machine after you've known what you're doing for a while and just get to work."

Both Bo and Zack are among more than 395 students benefiting from the Hinds Career Center, which serves 7 school districts in Madison, Hamilton, Tipton, and Grant counties.

The educational center is helping students explore their options in a number of high-demand vocational careers.

Hinds Career Center Director Jim Pearson touches on a number of fields the students can explore during their time at the school, including manufacturing, automotive, health care, public service, cosmetology, robotics --- just to name a few.

"The idea of career technical education really was born in Indiana in the late 60's, when this facility was built and the emphasis on needing technical skills became more important in the workforce," Pearson explains.

The Elwood facility was built in 1968 and was the first endeavor of its kind in Indiana.

Today, students still take their core academic classes at their high schools in the seven districts Hinds Career Center serves.

The students also spend a morning session or an afternoon session at Hinds, learning from professionals in a number of industries, thanks to partnerships with more than 20 companies and government entities.

So far, the formula as been a win-win, funneling students into a pool of hirable skilled trade laborers.

In fact, the programs at Hinds are expanding so fast, there is now a demand for more space to accommodate more students. Local businesses are banding together with government and the school to build a larger facility.

Administrators say public funds will not be needed to construct it.

Elwood-based Red Gold Foods has even donated the land where the new-and-improved school will eventually stand.

"We have expanded the number of partners we have by probably threefold in the last 5 to 7 years because of demand for laborer in the workforce is so high," Pearson says, "They need skilled labor and this is where they come to get it."

Zack Whiteaker will already be working by the time the new center opens, especially since he's getting certifications while in high school.

He feels this place has already helped him find a passion, a purpose, and a potential paycheck.

"Once your certified," he says, "they're desperate for welders out there, so it's pretty easy to find a welding job after that, is what I hear."

The new, expanded facility should be up and running within the next five years.

In the meantime, Hinds Career Center is also in the middle of talks to work with three additional school districts.