With more than 7,000 students having studied in its classrooms since its founding 13 years ago, John Jay Center for Learning is looking to expand its offerings to the community.
Executive director Rusty Inman spoke to Jay County Commissioners Monday about the center’s upcoming programs, as well as its goal to give the community a more campus-like feel.
Giving statistics on the impact John Jay has made on residents — awarding 400 GEDs and offering classes from four Indiana colleges to more than an estimated 10,000 people — Inman focused on what’s being done to keep technical workers in Jay County and how to include more organizations in providing education to residents.
“We’re continuing to search for other educational partners to bring to John Jay,” said Inman. “If there’s an interest and a need, we’re going to do what we can to fill that.”
The center is currently working on construction of a vocational educational lab in its basement, with a proposed opening in 2015, to help students stay competitive in a job market that is changing and becoming more competitive.
Working alongside Work One to begin apprenticeship programs and vocational training, the center wants to award more technical certification to allow local industries to keep a solid labor force.
“What they’ve told me is up to 50 percent of their workforce will be retiring in the next five years, and they need somebody to come behind,” said Inman. “To me, yeah, the ultimate goal is to draw in more economic development, but the clear and present concern is keeping the industry at what we’ve got.”
Another way the center plans to assist in the continuing education of local residents is through a network of organizations working together to provide joint services and seminars.
“We’re working with other not-for-profit organizations to create a more campus-like effect here in Jay County, Portland especially,” said Inman.
Working with Jay Community Center, Arts Place Inc., Jay County Public Library, Jay County Chamber of Commerce and Jay County Hospital, the center wants to encourage county residents to utilize organizations for further education, inspire younger individuals to become involved in leadership roles and allow organizations to network to provide better programs than they could offer on their own.
Looking ahead, Inman discussed a proposed senior learning series, which could debut in the fall. Each course in the series would take place over a lunch hour, instructing older residents about topics such as navigating computers, tablets, smart phones and online banking. It would come at low to no cost to underline the center’s focus on lifelong learning, said Inman.
John Jay will also offer courses this summer for younger students, including a leadership institute for high school students and two separate two-day camps for elementary and middle school age students, centering on chemistry and engineering respectively.
“We’re using your money … (we) try to be good stewards with the money … for the folks of Jay County,” said Inman.
In other business, commissioners Milo Miller Jr., Jim Zimmerman and Faron Parr:
•Reappointed David Littler to Jay County Hospital Board of Trustees and appointed Janet Bantz to the seat previously held by Sharon Hammers. Both appointments are for four years.
•Signed emergency claims for Upper Salamonie River Watershed coordinator Tim Kroeker. The claims included $3,779.55 for a flow meter and $4,462.25 for a water quality meter.