Indiana Governor Mike Pence joined representatives from NIPSCO, the Michigan City Area Schools and the La Porte County Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program for a ribbon cutting ceremony today, as they celebrated a new partnership preparing Northwest Indiana students for high-demand jobs in the electronics, energy, and utility industries. The Energy Academy program is the only initiative of its kind in Indiana, and it serves students from Michigan City and six other area high schools at the A. K. Smith Career Center.
“Today’s kickoff is evidence of how outstanding partnerships, such as the one between NIPSCO and the La Porte County Career and Technical Program, can connect education with career pathways to improve opportunities for Hoosier students,” said Governor Pence. “The state of Indiana remains committed to further improving career and technical education in high schools across our state.”
“We are thrilled to be partnering with NIPSCO on the Energy Academy,” said Audra Peterson, Director of La Porte County CTE. “This is an example of educators working together with business to ensure we’re preparing students for success and meeting regional workforce needs.” Peterson noted that the Energy Academy collaboration has led to the development of a new Career Pathway that has been approved by the Indiana Department of Education. The pathway is now a model for high schools and career and technical education programs across the state.
The Energy Academy curriculum incorporates hands-on experiences in electromechanical installation and maintenance, energy and environmental technology, public utilities, and residential and commercial energy. Dual college credits for Energy Academy courses are provided through Ivy Tech Community College, and students earn professional certifications through the Center for Energy Workforce Development and the National Center for Construction Education and Research.
“NIPSCO is committed to La Porte County, not only in providing electric and natural gas service to our customers, but also as an important area of operations,” said Mike Finissi, NIPSCO Chief Operating Officer. “The Energy Academy will help NIPSCO meet our future employment needs, and it will lead the way for more great partnerships.”
Funding for the project was made possible by the Nisource Foundation, which has committed $100,000 over three years to provide materials, equipment, training, and supplies. In addition, NIPSCO supports the Energy Academy through mentors, internships, speakers, field trips, and curricular guidance.
The Energy Academy is modeled after a successful partnership between Gulf Power and West Florida High School of Advanced Technology. “A. K. Smith was selected as the site for this project because of the Michigan City Area Schools’ strong commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, beginning in the elementary grades,” said Finissi. “This Academy is a natural progression for area students interested in engineering and electronics as they move on to high school.”
Michigan City High School junior Josh Pajor, an Energy Academy student, presented Governor Pence with an Energy Academy hard hat and polo shirt during Wednesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony. “The new classroom is amazing,” he said. “All of this new equipment really shows how much NIPSCO believes in us.” After graduation, Pajor plans to enroll in a two-year program at Ivy Tech, to complete coursework for the Energy pathway. “After that, I’d like to work for NIPSCO,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with tools and wiring, anything that has to do with electricity. And I want to have a good job here in Northwest Indiana.”
Parents and students interested in learning more about the Energy Academy (and the 14 other career tracks offered through the La Porte County CTE Program ) are invited to attend an Open House on Wednesday, November 5 from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the A. K. Smith Career Center, 817 Lafayette Street, Michigan City.