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Middle school participates in statewide pilot program

New Castle Career Center graphic design studentCamie Johnson, left, shows eighth graders at New Castle Middle School some of the products thatthey could help create in a few years if they chose that career path. The middle schoolerslearned about a dozen different NCCC programs Friday afternoon.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

New Castle Middle School learned in August that it had been selected to be part of the Indiana Career Explorer (ICE) Pilot Program.

The ICE Pilot Program is a brainchild of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and the Indiana Department of Education.

The ICE Pilot Program was designed to “evaluate and enhance critical college and career readiness through in-classroom instruction in the eighth grade to help students explore in-demand jobs, assess current skills, explore possible career pathways and develop an education and training plan to achieve future goals.”

The city middle school started their Indiana Career Explorer program when the kids got back from winter break.

NCMS counselor Julie Hansell explained that they integrated the program into the eighth grade social studies classes.

New Castle Middle School Principal Kirk Amman said this was a good fit because career exploration is the real life application of what his students are learning.

“Things are really starting to come together,” Amman said. “Middle schoolers love to learn things they think are relevant and meaningful. This kind of curriculum fits that.”

Representatives from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and Kuder Inc., the company that designed the ICE software, visited New Castle Middle School Friday afternoon to see the program in action.

DWD Director of Apprenticeship and Work-based Learning Carrie Lively explained that the ICE software helps Indiana students figure out what careers best align with their current interests and skills.

Mary Pouch, the Indiana Field Trainer for Kuder Inc., said it was exciting to see the New Castle students drilling down into the data in the ICE software.

Kuder was able to include Indiana-specific data into the ICE program, which means today’s students can plan education and career paths based on up-to-date industry data.

Students from the New Castle Career Center visited the eighth grade ICE students Friday to give them a brief explanation of some of the career and technical programs that are available to Henry County high school students.

The middle schoolers heard about the financial benefits of learning to weld, the emotional satisfaction of becoming a preschool teacher and the surprising fun in being a veterinary technician.

“This is exactly what we were hoping to get with this pilot program,” Lively said.

Lively said the best part about the New Castle program is that the counselors and administrators have dedicated so much time to career education with their students.

It’s an ongoing conversation about careers and planning for the future, Lively said.

The DWD will now collect information from all 16 schools involved in the Indiana Career Explorer program. The data could eventually be used to create a statewide career education curriculum.

“The earlier we work with students and prepare them for life beyond high school, the more successful they will be upon graduation,” said Dr. Jennifer McCormick, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction. “The Indiana Career Explorer program is a great way to introduce students to thinking about their future, and I am thankful for the collaboration provided by the Department of Workforce Development to help make this possible. I am also grateful to the participating schools whose students will benefit greatly from their commitment to this important program.”