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J & J Electric supports Ivy Tech Kokomo construction trades lab

President Jeff Linkenhelt says campus transformation important to community

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It’s only right for J & J Electric of Indiana to be working on the transformation of Ivy Tech Kokomo’s Industrial Technology Center. The well-known Kokomo-based electrical contractor, headed by president Jeff Linkenhelt, has been handling the electrical needs of the building since its construction in 1990.

J & J traces its history back to that year when Linkenhelt and his late father, Jay Linkenhelt, opened the company. Among its first projects was providing electricians to complete the structure for Trialon Corporation, a validation testing services company. As Trialon’s facility needs changed, the building became available for purchase. In 2006, Ivy Tech added the property to its campus footprint with a plan to renovate the facility in the future. J & J Electric was hired to transition the electrical systems of the light manufacturing facility to meet the needs of an education technology space.

Now, as part of the $43 million transformation of the Kokomo Campus, the outdated structure has been gutted and completely rebuilt into a new Industrial Technology Center fitted out with the equipment and facilities needed to train new generations of skilled tradespeople. Among the new resources there is the J & J Electric Building Construction Technology Laboratory. Here budding carpenters, electricians, and general contractors will enjoy hands-on learning experiences as they build mock-ups of houses.

Linkenhelt says he is happy to be able to support the campus transformation through the donation to #THETIMEISNOW campaign that is recognized by the naming of the construction lab.

“I’m glad to support Ivy Tech because I think it’s really a good cause,” Linkenhelt said. “The vocational training the College provides, the services it offers are really important to the future of our community and the local economy.”

Linkenhelt’s experience with Ivy Tech goes even deeper. Back in the early 1980s, he completed his International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) apprenticeship accreditation through Ivy Tech as have most of the electricians on the more than 100-member J & J team. He says he relies on the IBEW/Ivy Tech apprenticeship program to provide him with new employees, who, through the program, earn an associate degree along with their journeyperson status.

Kelly Karickhoff, executive director of resource development for Ivy Tech’s Kokomo Service Area, said Linkenhelt, a Kokomo native and graduate of Northwestern High School, has been a great supporter of Ivy Tech and his community.

“Jeff understands the importance of education and building a qualified workforce,” Kelly said. “Jeff wants to hire the best electricians possible and he trusts Ivy Tech in that partnership. His generous gift to this project is an investment in the future of our workforce and we are grateful for his friendship and support.”

For more information on the campaign to raise a total of $3 million in private donations to complete the project, contact Karickhoff at kkarickhoff@ivytech.edu or call 765-437-6917 or log in to ivytech.edu/kokomotransformation .

Lab supports building construction training

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The new J & J Electric Building Construction Technology Laboratory will serve as the centerpiece of Ivy Tech Kokomo’s re-boot of the construction trades program.

For Josh Speer, dean of Ivy Tech Kokomo’s School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering, and Applied Science, the re-boot is a prime example of Ivy Tech responding to community needs.

“There is a real need here,” Speer said. “The state’s economic data says it, the employers say it. We are coordinating with area high schools and career and technical centers to create a seamless transfer pathway that students can follow from high school to Ivy Tech to employer. And it’s a pathway to a high-demand, high-wage career.” According to State of Indiana economic data, more than 200 building construction jobs open up each year within Ivy Tech Kokomo’s five-county service area and the median salary in the trades, as of May 2019, was nearly $21 per hour.

For Bill Slonaker, chair of the Building Construction Technology programs, the new initiative is a great way for younger students to prepare for lucrative careers.

“Students will be able to take the first four classes in the program, two in each semester of their high school senior year, through the dual credit program at their schools,” Slonaker said. “Through classes at Ivy Tech, they can then complete a building construction specialist certificate – in the electrical, carpentry, or management specialties – by the end of the summer after they graduate from high school.”

The carpentry and electrical specialist certificates prepare graduates for an Indiana county contractor license and National Electrical Code Certification, respectively, both credentials valued by employers.

A one-year program with similar timing for those already out of high school is also available at Ivy Tech and results in 22-credit-hour certificates. This can be a way for people currently “under-employed” to gain the skills they need to get better jobs, Slonaker said.

With an additional 10 credit hours of coursework that includes workplace communications and applied technical mathematics, students can earn a technical certificate in their chosen specialty. Under Ivy Tech’s “stackable” course structure, students can build on the courses taken for the technical certificate through online coursework to pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree in building construction management. That degree can then transfer to a four-year institution as the foundation of a baccalaureate degree in construction management.

“Currently, because of the skills shortage, employers are having to hire employees with no real background in construction, requiring expensive, time-consuming and inconsistent on-the-job training,” Speer said. “Our goal is to create a pool of well-trained, skilled, credentialed graduates to fill this need.”

Several members of the Home Builders Association of Howard County are part of Ivy Tech Kokomo’s Building Construction Technology Program Advisory Board, the professional voice within the program. They help in maintaining a relevant curriculum and work with students before, during, and after their educational experience to connect them with internship and employment opportunities.

To learn more about the Building Construction Technology program at Ivy Tech Kokomo, contact Bill Slonaker at 765-252-5547 or wslonaker1@ivytech.edu .