Invest Hamilton County

Memos From Mike

2% – Why This Career Center Looks Different
September 22, 2022

2% – Why This Career Center Looks Different

In my work with industry throughout the state and the country I have had the pleasure of touring some truly state of the art training facilities. These modernly designed, beautiful, engaging, and well-equipped spaces seem like the pinnacle for engaging individuals in a new career and providing a great entry point to whatever path a student dreamed to explore.

Because of Invest’s incubation of the Career Center project in Hamilton County, and our receipt of a Modern Youth Apprenticeship grant, I was invited in August to join a conference in Colorado for the Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship (PAYA) put on by CareerWise USA. Modern Youth Apprenticeship is an amazing model and the students they showcased clearly had a very positive experience. We’re doing some amazing stuff with it here close to home… but more on that later…

As a part of this conference, we got to take a field trip out to what was among the most beautiful buildings I have ever been in (and I used to staff a construction awards committee in Central Indiana). They took us from one state-of-the-art room to the next and honestly, I found myself thinking, “why aren’t we building one of these in our county?”

So, I asked the question… fortunately with me on the field trip was Carrie Lively, our Executive Director for the Pursuit Institute (formerly the Hamilton County Center for Career Achievement). Carrie waved her hand around this beautiful nine-figure building and said, “see all of this?… 2% Mike… every place that builds one of these, no matter how awesome, is automatically capping enrollment in high-end CTE programs by the physical limits of what one building can hold.” What Carrie was driving home is that this massive endeavor only serves 2% (or less) of the students in that school corporation, and that this number is almost universally common for projects of this type.

I’d believed in our decentralized model from the start because I knew it created efficiencies and that bringing classes closer to home is always best for students… but this was a lightbulb moment for me. When Carrie and her team are working locally to build a new training program housed at an employer, individual school corporation(s) or community partner we’re building scalable delivery from day one. This programming is much less restricted by physical space, exponentially less reliant on capital budgets, more engaged with local employers, and flexible to student demand.

It is a solution that also drives equity… because instead of one lottery-based monument to career education only accessible to the privileged or stigmatized few we’re developing grassroots Career education that becomes part of every students experience in education (without having to get on “that bus” and go elsewhere).

The Pursuit Institute now has approved unanimous votes from 5 of the 6 school corporations in Hamilton County. What one year ago moved from dream to concept is now a reality.

I love pretty buildings… and state of the art training… but I’ve been shown there is a better way… and I believe. Fortunately, so do our school leaders, employers and community leaders. Our sleeves are rolled up. It’s time to get to work. We’d love you to join.