U.S. Secretary of Labor Applauds Partnership Involving PLTW

Project Lead The Way was a focal point of U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez’s visit to Pike High School in Indianapolis, Ind. on Wednesday. In town with U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and U.S. Representative André Carson (D-IN-07), Secretary Perez toured Pike High School’s PLTW Engineering and PLTW Biomedical Science programs, speaking with students and then leading a roundtable discussion with city leaders, business representatives, and school district leaders and educators on the importance of preparing students for the workforce.

“Our economy is moving in the right direction,” Perez said. “The main thing I hear is that businesses need access to a skilled workforce. Pike High School is the pipeline for tomorrow’s workforce.”

Roundtable participants included PLTW President and CEO Dr. Vince Bertram, Metropolitan School District of Pike Township Superintendent Nathaniel Jones, Pike High School Principal Troy Inman, and representatives from Ivy Tech Community College, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, EmployIndy, Techpoint  Foundation for Youth, Conexus Indiana, Rolls-Royce, Dow Chemical, and Allison Transmissions. 

In April, the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township received a $7 million federal Youth CareerConnect (YCC) grant. It was among thousands of U.S. school districts and organizations to apply, but one of just 24 to receive a YCC grant. Since receiving the $7 million grant, Pike High School and its community partners – including Ivy Tech Community College, EmployIndy, and Conexus Indiana – have worked together to strengthen and expand Pike High School’s career academies. Two of the academies are PLTW Engineering and PLTW Biomedical Science.

The YCC program at Pike H.S. gives students the opportunity to take rigorous curricula that is focused on in-demand occupations and industries. Students enrolled in the program also have access to industry mentors, career counseling, workforce expertise, dual-credit opportunities, and industry certifications. This isn’t new for students at Pike High School – the district credits its focus on career-prep programs for its 93 percent graduation rate – and the YCC grant helps expand the career academies and engage even more students.

Representatives from Dow Chemical and Rolls-Royce, organizations that both partner with PLTW, emphasized the importance of engaging students in STEM education. 

“For us at Rolls-Royce, it’s important to create those ‘ah-ha!’ moments,” said Reginald McGreggor, manager of engineering employee development at Rolls-Royce. “We want students to know that we care about their future. So we provide internships, mentoring, and other programs to get students engaged.”

“This work is critical,” said Bertram. “We must help students develop skills that they can transfer across any sector. What we need to do now is figure out how to replicate the leadership we have here today, across the United States.”

Secretary Perez and Senator Donnelly agreed, saying that Pike High School’s program is a scalable model they will promote in their travels across the state and around the country.