Hands-on approach sparks students’ passion at Elkhart Area Career Center open house

Published: Jan. 22, 2023 at 9:46 PM EST
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ELKHART, Ind. (WNDU) - The Elkhart Area Career Center held its annual open house today to help local students focus on possible careers while emphasizing project-based, service-based, and work-based education.

“I’ve never welded before, and I was looking for something very hands-on and project-orientated,” Elkhart Area Career Center Student Patrick Loesch said. “I do okay in the classroom, but I really learn well with my hands and through physical learning.”

While only Juniors and Seniors can enroll at the Career Center, the open house allowed high school and middle school students to preview prospective careers.

“Sometimes I think we have a preconceived notion about what something is and don’t understand all the different facets,” Director of the Elkhart Area Career Center Brandon Eakins said. “So, you guys were in (examined) the vet program. We have a lot of young people who come and think they want to get into veterinary sciences because they love fuzzy stuff. I mean, who doesn’t love dogs and kitties, right? But the reality is working in a veterinary office isn’t sunshine and rainbows every day. You know, we have a lot of animals in need, and you have to make some tough decisions. So, I think it’s good for students to have a fuller picture.”

Students at the Career Center attend general studies classes at their high school for half of the day and then spend the remainder of their day at the Career Center in C.T.E., or the “career technical and education programs.”

“I originally wanted to be a diesel-tech mechanic, and then once I got in here, I figured, it’s something I want to do, and it’s something that I would love to do after high school,” Elkhart Area Career Center student Peyton Mallo said.

The diverse programs at the Career Center include various medical disciplines, computer science, law enforcement, first responders, welding, automotive, culinary, and cosmetology, allowing students to try different things and, hopefully, spark a passion.

“I’m not sure exactly what the future holds for me, but welding is an in-demand career and job, and there are a lot of opportunities within it, too, wherever you are in the country,” Loesch added. “And so, it opens a lot of pathways for me after high school, no matter what I do or where I go.”

The Elkhart Area Career Center isn’t limited to only Elkhart students; they serve students from all over Michiana.

“We serve all the schools in Elkhart County minus Fairfield, so Elkhart, Concord, Jimtown, NorthWood, Northridge, and Goshen,” Eakins explained. “We serve Penn in Mishawaka in St. Joseph County. We serve Breman in Marshall County, Edwardsburg, Michigan, four private schools, and homeschool students.”

Director Eakins also discussed the newest programs added to the course catalog.

“We launched two new programs this past year; one is our surgical services because, in our community, we have a huge shortage of surgical technologists, but we also have a shortage in sterile processing,” Eakins said. “Those are two major areas we need people in, and before we launched the programs, people would have to go an hour and 15 minutes to either Valparaiso, Kokomo, or Fort Wayne. "

Eakins explained the amount of time and effort it takes to add new programs and how the Career Center needs community support to continue growing.

“So, what we do is, we see a need like that; it’s a research process,” Eakins said. “It takes about a year and a half to turn a program over. So, we are constantly looking at those emerging trends and finding out if we can offer programming in that area. Then, it’s really looking at our resources that we have available, the space that we have, and then, the community partnership piece because, in a number of those areas, we’re going to need support from the community.”

Contact the Career Center directly through their website if you are interested in attending or supporting the Elkhart Area Career Center.