FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) — With several technology companies looking to set up headquarters in Indianapolis, several central Indiana high schools are already hard at work training students to enter that competitive workforce.
Fishers High School in Hamilton Southeastern School District hosts dual-credit college classes inside its building taught in part by local tech industry professionals. The program is in its third year and boasts three classes with about 15 enrolled students each. Those high school students will receive 3 college credits per course at Purdue University for these freshman level major courses and pay about $25 per credit hour.
“The goal I think is to really connect kids with authentic learning and bring that into the classroom as much as possible,” said Steve Loser, assistant principal at Fishers High School. “Kids are going to actually reinvent their jobs through their lifetime. They need to know what’s there, but also be able to shift and pivot as they move in those next steps.”
John McDonald says these courses teach that kind of innovation, teamwork and problem solving. He’s the instructor for CNIT 18000 through the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, but he isn’t a trained teacher. He’s the CEO of Fishers-based ClearObject and teaches the course from personal experience, with supervision from Purdue faculty.
“If we want kids to be able to be apart of this data economy that we have growing here in Indiana without necessarily loading them up with college debt or have them escape Indiana,” said McDonald. “You need to have ways and pathways for kids to lean to be a part of the computer industry in a high school setting.”
Wednesday, McDonald held out his Indiana driver’s license and explained to the students how it’s a metaphor for digital certificates on the internet. He says coding and computer skills are the new form of English, and believes everyone needs to understand them.The students say they really believe this course could make a difference in their futures.
“I thought it was really cool. I didn’t know about this until junior year,” said Jeremy Simpson, a senior at FHS. “I want to be a computer engineer so this systems analyst stuff would be helpful for my future job.”
“I think it’s really interesting because it’s a new way of learning and I know he knows his stuff because he has a job doing it currently,” said Sarah Stensland, also a senior.
At age 17, Jeremy Simpson already has a job in the tech industry and wants to make sure he’ll be competitive once he graduates.
“The jobs are getting so much more technically skilled that you need training and knowledge beforehand to be competitive in there,” Simpson said. “So knowing everything you can as soon as possible and preparing for that is very useful for getting a job in this field.”
“Our high school students are already telling us that they know how code websites, they know how to build apps,” said McDonald. “So we need to do a better job at driving this technical education into high schools so they’re prepared to go directly into jobs in the IT industry.”
McDonald says several efforts are underway across the state, including some by Governor Holcomb to bring catered technical education to a younger population. Westfield Washington Schools’ Innovate Westfield and Carmel Clay Schools’ Ivy Tech Dual Credit Courses are similar programs in Hamilton County.
“We’re really trying to tap into the pulse of the smart, vibrant, entrepreneurial city of Fishers and have that reflected in the building as much as possible,” said Loser. “This is one model that’s a college level course taught by Purdue with a local expert but we have a multitude of opportunities for local experts, local companies to come into our classrooms connect with our teachers.”
To learn more about the College and Career Academy at Fishers High School, visit their website.