- Associated Press - Sunday, August 17, 2014

MUNSTER, Ind. (AP) - With a part-time job at a Valparaiso laboratory and a college scholarship, Cole Ozbolt is proud of his vocational accomplishments.

Ozbolt, 20, of Portage, works at Urschel Laboratory in Valparaiso, earning $15 per hour. He is a 2013 graduate of Portage High School and one of three Porter County students who won the first Urschel Next Generation scholarship.

As part of the scholarship, Ozbolt is attending Vincennes University, working on an associate degree in precision machining.

He is part of a growing number of region students taking advantage of vocational opportunities targeting high-demand fields.

Ozbolt began working at Urschel Laboratory in February 2013 while a student at the Porter County Career Center.

“I took classes in machining, and I learned the basics and CNC (computer numerical control) machining. It’s all done by computers,” Ozbolt told the (Munster) Times (http://bit.ly/1ptVvv1).

He decided to check out the center when a friend who was at the center showed him some items he made.

“I like working with my hands, so I decided to give it a try. The teachers are amazing. I love it. I’m good at it.”

Ozbolt said the center gives students a chance to learn skills leading to jobs or college pursuits. The scholarship program also allows Ozbolt to return to work at Urschal Lab at Christmas and on breaks.

“My parents are really proud of me. It makes me independent,” he said.

Ozbolt is one of dozens of young adults who are taking advantage of the career center.

In Lake and Porter counties, three career centers — the Porter County Career Center, the Hammond Area Career Center and the Gary Career Center — serve students. Some school districts also offer career and technical classes at the high school level.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz support career and technical education. Pence recently signed into law two bills supporting such services.

The first created regional Works Councils to partner with the private sector and educational organizations to identify needs in workforce, create partnerships between schools and businesses for internships and apprenticeships to boost career and technical education in high schools. The second created a state career council to bring all of the state’s job creation and education efforts under one umbrella.

Urschel plant manager Dave Whitenack said the Porter County Career Center is a consistent source of machining talent. He said about 12 percent of the people who work in the shop attended the career center.

Story Continues →