Time to partner with higher-ed institutions

On April 13, BeijingWest Industries announced it had selected Greenfield as the location of its next auto-parts plant. Within four years, the city of Greenfield will need to grow its work-ready employee base by approximately 440 workers, and these potential employees must have the skills necessary to work in a 21st-century manufacturing plant.

I think it’s time the Greenfield community rethinks the decision we made years ago not to create partnerships with post-secondary institutions.

At one point, there were discussions about bringing an Ivy Tech campus to Greenfield. Instead of investing in that opportunity, however, it was decided that Ivy Tech could continue to teach classes out of the high school.

That was a short-term answer, and it floundered within a few years, I believe, for a couple of reasons. One, I don’t think students could get past the fact the classes were in the high school. Attending college classes in a high school setting didn’t feel like the students were making an academic jump.

Second, I don’t believe our community was ready to support a standalone, post-secondary institution. We didn’t have enough willing students to make the venture worthwhile.

Fast forward to today. Greenfield has a booming manufacturing economy that needs a reliable and trained employee base.

Manufacturing plants need educated workers who understand robotics and coding. In reality, these factories could use a local training facility that allows them to keep their employees nearby instead of sending them out of state for their educational needs.

I see a chance for Greenfield to fulfill a variety of post-secondary opportunities by creating not only a community college option but also a manufacturing training center for our local factories.

Ideally, it would be a partnership among the city, county and our businesses since all would reap the benefits. Also, while I’m dreaming, wouldn’t it be nice to re-purpose a local facility, such as the recently vacated Marsh location, into something useful? It certainly has plenty of parking and offers a central location.

Post-secondary education looks different now than it did when Greenfield first started exploring educational options for our community.

At that time, many people focused on four-year degrees and went into debt to finance a traditional college education.

Today, while I believe people still understand the value of continuing education, I think they better understand the cost-saving benefits of starting at Ivy Tech or a satellite campus of Indiana Wesleyan University.

I also believe Greenfield is the perfect type of community to have its own educational resources at hand. Our high school students are reaching coursework levels that warrant college-level courses in a college setting.

Our manufacturing base has increased to a point that we could continue to grow that facet of our community’s economy if we can provide the workers, as well as educate them.

We’re all familiar with the adapted quote from the movie, “Field of Dreams” — “If you build it, they will come.”

As a community, let’s continue building, but let’s make sure we build our educational and economy bases strong enough that not only will manufacturers continue to come; they will choose to stay.

Kim Kile is the director of school counseling at Greenfield-Central High School. She can be reached at kimskile@gmail.com.