NEW HAVEN — East Allen Career Center, which is scheduled to be completed and ready for classes in August, already has one of its six programs up and running. Twenty-six juniors and seniors from the five East Allen County Schools (EACS) high schools have been studying automation and robotics since the start of the 2019/2020 school year.

Like other Indiana schools, EACS schools will not have students in attendance at least through May 1 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

According to Tim Wiegand, executive director of the career center, automation and robotics got a jump on the rest of the programs at the request of Wayne Metals. “The company is eager to be able to draw from a pool of trained people who can fill skilled jobs in the future. This is a two-year program which covers robotic programming, electronics for automation, hydraulics, pneumatics and mechanical drives. The top students will have the opportunity to interview for paid summer internships at Fort Wayne Metals,” he said.

“There are more than 3,000 Fanuc Robots in companies in just Allen County,” said Wiegand, “which is the kind our students are learning to program and operate.”

Teaching positions in cybersecurity, health sciences, precision machining, construction trades and pharmacy technology will be posted. To teach these courses, individuals must have their teaching credentials and have had some experience in the various fields.

More than 170 students have applied to participate in the course offerings and the Center, at the present, can handle a total of 200. They will attend their high school half-day studying core courses and spend the other half at the Career Center studying what will be known as elective credits. Pharmacy technology is the only one-year course. Depending on the course of study, students will earn dual credits either from Vincennes University or IVY Tech Community College.

Wiegand said Vincennes has provided a lot of equipment and others have made in-kind donations. “We’ll also be seeking grants and financial support from businesses, industry and the state,” he said. “We’ve received a lot of support from area industries because of the growing demand for skilled people. Kids should be able to step into higher paying jobs right out of high school.”

Renovation work is underway now to the former Meadowbrook Elementary School that was later the New Haven Intermediate School. A 3,000-square-foot machine shop is being added. Wiegand indicated that there will be room to grow and admit additional students to the program in the future. “We plan to survey industry needs and will then add programs to fit those needs,” he said. “Before settling on the programs, we visited a number of operations throughout the state and Ohio. What we’ve come up with is a combination of the best of the Anthis Career Center in Fort Wayne, the Vantage Career Center in Van Wert, Ohio, the Elkhart Area Career Center and the Area 31 Career Center in Indianapolis. Our programs will have an East Allen flavor and be focused on helping kids get jobs right here in the county.”

In addition to housing the Career Center, about a third of the facility is being used by the East Allen Alternative School for students who are eager to earn credits in order to graduate early or those making up credits. Ron Kammeyer, who was formerly principal at Woodlan High School, is principal at the Alternative School. It opened in August 2019 and was formerly located in the old New Haven Elementary School for the past eight years.

Wiegand grew up in Illinois and earned a Bachelor’s in Education and Master’s in Education Leadership from Illinois State University. He taught and later became principal at Gateway Woods in Leo and then became principal at Blackhawk Christian Elementary School.

“I was raised on a farm and have always been a hand-on sort of guy. Getting the Career Center off the ground is not only exciting,” said Wiegand, “but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I wouldn’t have taken the position if I didn’t totally believe in it. It will make a difference in New Haven.”

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