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New classrooms, labs key to building local workforce

Ivy Tech offers students state of the art tech

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In Demand — A surgical technology student, left, and her instructor, right, use Ivy Tech’s state of the art equipment and facilities that will better prepare students for high-demand health care careers.

Ivy Tech Kokomo is one of the community’s best kept secrets.

It’s a phrase that gets repeated a lot among both former and current Ivy Tech faculty. Jia Hardimon-Eddington, department chair and an assistant professor of Surgical Technology, is the latest to echo the sentiment.

Now, with its transformation completed, Ivy Tech Kokomo should be on everyone’s list who wants to enter the community’s workforce or move up in their career.

A major reason for that is an overhaul to classrooms and labs that include state of the art technology that will prepare students for real-world success.

“The new technology opens up additional opportunities for the students, opens up some additional readiness for the workforce,” said Hardimon-Eddington.

In the Surgical Tech classroom, tables and desks have wheels that allow for the furniture to be moved and arranged in ways that complement the discussion. For example, if a professor is lecturing, the class can face forward. If there is a discussion, the tables can be arranged so class members can see and respond to each other. It also allows for additional space when needed for activities.

But when it comes to space, Ivy Tech now has plenty to work with. The Surgical Tech classroom looks into a lab that has four operating bays fully equipped with a bed, a mannequin patient (that can be controlled by an instructor to simulate life threatening situations) and other items that students will need to be familiar with as professionals.

The entire area is designed to look exactly like what one would see in a hospital. To enter, students must go into a locker room and change into their scrubs. They go into a room and prep by washing and sanitizing their hands. Each lesson feels like a real medical experience so that when students are ready for a career, they feel familiar with the setting and process.

And careers are waiting for the students. Last year all but one surgical tech student had a job offer before they had graduated, said Hardimon-Eddington. The one who didn’t was moving out of state.

The new space also eliminated the need to travel to various hospitals in the region, which equaled lost class time. But that doesn’t mean students won’t have ample experience in a real hospital setting. Not only are local hospitals an option for clinicals, but Hardimon-Eddington said students often have opportunities to work in Marion and Allen counties before finishing the program.

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Medical training isn’t the only thing that has changed at Ivy Tech. Engineering students will have access to state of the art learning spaces and equipment in their own field.

“Student’s need to learn in an environment that is very much like they are going to work in,” said Josh Speer, dean of the School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering, and Applied Sciences. “In the past we had the equipment they were using but the environment didn’t match. Our space, you walk into the lab and it looks just like a factory — clean floors, good lighting, air conditioned. You have safety zones set up. So we’ve been able to take and put our equipment in a position where it mimics [a real work environment] and we can do more authentic simulations.”

The program now has upgraded robotics, programmable logic controllers, multiple lathes and mills, surface grinders, new vehicles for automotive students to study and work on and a smart manufacturing lab.

Speer said that part of the benefit of being in the Kokomo community is that it is a forward thinking and proactive city focused on workforce training. He said that since the city is looking five years down the road, it will be prepared to make up the loss of workers as baby boomers retire. Part of the city and state’s commitment to Ivy Tech was for the college to prepare the next workforce that will replace those retiring workers and also help current workers make the transition to new jobs or upgrade their skills.

“What the [transformation] allowed us to do was to help us take out technology to the next level,” said Speer. “It helped us prepare for the future instead of what is currently just happening. If you look at the Kokomo community, right now large scale manufacturing is our bread and butter. If you look at the technology that comes with that, they are technologies that are starting to be phased out.”

“Ivy Tech does a really good job at looking at community trends, looking at what jobs are increasing and what jobs are decreasing,” he said. “We align the programs that we offer to match those.”

Ivy Tech isn’t just a place for medical and engineering training, however. The liberal arts are represented in multiple ways and there is also a visual communication program. Many local students take courses such as English and math at the college before transferring to a four year university. Thanks to state Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, and 2012’s Senate Bill 182, transferring college credits between schools is now easier than ever.

“We have a great faculty and staff here,” said Ethan Heicher, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. “And we have for a very long time, had strong grant support that has allowed for some top quality technologies and equipment in our spaces. We've just never had the exterior projection of that quality.”

They say don’t judge a book by its cover. But what Ivy Tech has always represented now shines brightly with its new exterior. The opportunities that await students inside are even more inspiring.

What once was a community secret is ready for the state of Indiana to know its name.