Indiana’s Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch got a behind the scenes look at the newest program offered by the SCILL Center. Crouch had a chance to speak with instructors and students about the Automation, Robotics and Equipment Maintenance (AREM) classroom and lab.
Director Ron Gifford explained that this specific program is now in its second year. He mentioned that the program is not only available to high school students, it is also open to adults looking to improve their skills in order to obtain more meaningful employment.
Through OCRA and Department of Education grants as well as contributions from the city of Plymouth and city of Knox, SCILL was able to purchase all the necessary equipment for a total cost of approximately $450,000.
Lieutenant Governor Crouch asked about the level of math skills someone would need to be a part of this program. Instructor Bill Gregor explained that math competency is a major component, but he feels the program’s practical and hands-on use of mathematics makes it much simpler to retain.
He explained that in the classroom, students engage in online learning modules which are constructed by Ivy Tech. He said by doing those, they’re receiving the same level of training as a college freshman. If they complete two years of the program they walk away with 27 college credits. One student, he explained, went to IPFW for an engineering degree and already got “a big leg up” thanks to the basics he learned in AREM.
In the lab, students engage with the technology, applying the skills they learn from Gregor and the Ivy Tech modules. Last year, the program only had 5 participants, this year they’re up to 11.
All the students are currently from Knox but the program is open to 10 other local school corporations. As the program looks to expand, representatives mentioned that they’d especially like to encourage female students to give the program try.
Alex Wisheit, a Switzerland-native who serves as a member of the Starke County Economic Development Coordination commented that when you look at the kinds of jobs that are popular in European countries, you can tell that programs, such as the AREM class offered by Starke County Initiative for Lifelong Learning, are the way of the future.