High Schools Launch Manufacturing Businesses

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(photo courtesy of Regional Opportunity Initiatives Inc.) (photo courtesy of Regional Opportunity Initiatives Inc.)

Two student-run manufacturing businesses have launched in southern Indiana. The companies, Eagle Manufacturing at Brown County High School in Nashville and Lion Manufacturing at Loogootee High School in Martin County, are designed to give students hands-on, real world experience. The businesses were funded with grants from Bloomington-based nonprofit Regional Opportunity Initiatives Inc. 

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, ROI Chief Executive Officer Tina Peterson and Director of Education and Workforce Todd Hurst said the effort would not be possible without support from local partners, including area businesses.

"(The partners) actually provide projects in addition to advising them on how they've actually set up their student-run business," said Peterson. "I really want to be clear, these are truly student businesses. Every aspect of these business is being run by a student with the guidance, obviously, of a faculty person. But the partnership with local business allows them to actually take in the work. So, a business will come to them and say, 'Would you make this part for us?' and, quite honestly, it's quite a host of different types of projects."

Chip Mehaffey, superintendent of Loogootee Community Schools, says the partnership with Loughmiller Machine Tool and Design, which is owned and operated by a pair of Loogootee High School graduates, was instrumental in the launch of Lion Manufacturing. The company currently employs 13 students from the school's engineering, manufacturing, art and business departments and Mehaffey says it will continue to grow over time.

"Our first order allowed our students to create and develop parts that will be used to bracket radar on United States Naval ships," said Mehaffey. "Giving our students these types of opportunities creates purpose and mission as they look toward their future college and career readiness opportunities. In addition, the potential impact this program can have on the future manufacturing workforce in our region is immeasurable."

Eagle Manufacturing in Nashville began the current school year with 23 students in three units: engineering, design, and CNC manufacturing. Laura Hammack, superintendent of Brown County Community Schools, says the development of the business is just one of many strategies to develop a prepared workforce.

"Within Eagle Manufacturing, we are teaching not only the skills that are necessary to run world class machinery, but we are also intentionally teaching the skills and dispositions needed to be a thoughtful and collaborative co-worker in a modern place of business," said Hammack. "Students engaged in the program will exit life ready for a variety of post secondary options available in the region."

The grant funding came from ROI's Ready Schools initiative. Peterson says ROI has worked with 12 school districts on projects that will best serve their areas and what comes from those efforts will be different. She says six of those districts are still in the development stages.

Peterson and Hurst said the effort would not be possible without support from local partners, including area businesses.
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