SOUTH WHITLEY — Whitko Community Schools leaders hosted an informational meeting Oct. 15, at the Larwill Campus to announce a collaborative partnership resulting in the establishment of the Whitko Career Academy: Next Level Education, a learning center for local high school students and adults which promises to have a transformational impact on learning and career readiness in Whitley and Kosciusko counties.
Dr. Brandon Penrod, superintendent of Whitko Community Schools, Laura Macknick, executive director of 80/20 Foundation Trust, and September McConnell, CEO of The Community Foundation of Whitley County, discussed the newly formed venture with partnering business leaders, foundation representatives and government officials.
“We are very excited about this aligned partnership that allows us to announce creation of The Whitko Career Academy. Recognizing the need for a variety of career training programs in manufacturing and a host of other fields, the Whitko Career Academy will be dedicated to quality, hands-on education that supports individuals as they develop their skills and achieve necessary certifications to gain meaningful employment in Northeast Indiana. We believe that the Whitko Career Academy will play an important role in providing key solutions for our local economy by strengthening the workforce. Our area communities and local companies stand to benefit with an infusion of career-ready talent,” Penrod said.
“In the short term, we will be utilizing an existing asset to meet the educational needs of students who are poised to train for local careers in manufacturing and many other fields. We are extremely thankful to our partners in this venture, including our lead funding partner, 80/20 Foundation Trust, as well as The Community Foundation of Whitley County and businesses who have already submitted their letters of support,” he said.
“We are pleased to be able to support seed funding for the Whitko Career Academy project,” said John Wood, Chairman of 80/20 Foundation Trust Board. “Our foundation values nonprofit educational partners that are matriculating students in areas of expertise that align with our strategic priorities of strengthening manufacturing and entrepreneurship in Northeast Indiana.”
“We are inspired by the interest and synergy surrounding this project,” said McConnell. “Whitley County is long overdue for a training facility of this caliber. Over the past several years we have heard from local citizens who lament the loss of programs for students, including adult learners, who are interested in careers in machine tool and industrial technology, the building trades, mechanics, childcare, law enforcement, culinary arts and even hair design and cosmetology. How great will it be when we can offer classes locally, without forcing lengthy commutes for regional training? Our local manufacturers who have long been strong pillars in Whitley County need skilled workers. If we are to thrive as a community and be a competitive workforce, the need for this type of educational training is vital. Understanding this, the Community Foundation is dedicated to this endeavor,” she said.
While an exact launch date for Whitko Career Academy has yet to be set, organizers are working with local businesses and potential university partners to determine demand and courses that will be offered during the 2020-2021 school year.
By offering technical coursework useful in the fields of engineering, manufacturing and technology to name a few, Whitko Career Academy will dramatically increase opportunities for our students and ultimately graduate a strong workforce that has been trained within our school and finds quick job placement right here close to home.