Seymour High School student Avery Castetter explains how the school's Owl Manufacturing program recreated the head of a dinosaur using a three-dimensional to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday.  Staff photo by January Rutherford
Seymour High School student Avery Castetter explains how the school's Owl Manufacturing program recreated the head of a dinosaur using a three-dimensional to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday. Staff photo by January Rutherford
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb couldn’t hide his amazement and excitement over the work of students in Seymour High School’s Owl Manufacturing program during a visit to the school Tuesday afternoon.

He was most impressed by the products coming from the three-dimensional scanner and printers, which together can make a replica bust of any person from a picture or even a model of a dinosaur’s head.

“I had heard so much about Owl Manufacturing and wanted to see it for myself. Seeing is believing,” Holcomb said. “Wow! Everyone should take note of what is happening here in Seymour.”

Before taking a tour of the program’s facilities and work cells, Holcomb had to take care of some official business first.

He chose Owl Manufacturing as the setting to sign House Enrolled Act 1002 into law. The education and workforce development bill provides training and education opportunities for Hoosiers to develop the skills that lead to high-wage, high-demand careers, Holcomb said.

There are currently 80,000 of those jobs unfilled across the state and 7.1 million across the country, he said.

“When I talk to businesses across the state and around the world, the same challenge keeps coming up: Finding enough skilled workers,” he said. “I’m thrilled lawmakers advanced this legislation. The one thing that brings us all together is this issue.”

In the last general assembly, which ended Monday, the state increased education funding in the two-year state budget by $763 million, Holcomb said.

A significant portion of that funding will support career and technical education pathways, he said.

“We want to make sure those dollars get to the school corporations,” he said. “And I want to make sure some of that gets to teachers’ paychecks, but I also want to make sure we are able to support the programs that are working and that the business community is telling us we need more of.”

Holcomb said the bill is about connecting people with the opportunities and skill sets they need to determine their own destiny.

“There is so much opportunity throughout the state of Indiana, yet we know that every single year, there are about 25,000 high school students that simply have no post-secondary plan in place,” he said.

Owl Manufacturing is a model to change that statistic, he said.

“We’re out to fix that leaky pipeline,” he said. “We have got to put the schools, the students in the driver seat, and it’s programs like this that are doing just that, and it gives inspiration to others around the state of Indiana that they too can do the same.”

Others attending the signing were District 44 Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, District 29 Rep. Chuck Goodrich, R-Noblesville, District 69 Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, and District 43 Sen. Chip Perfect, R-Lawrenceburg.

Perfect said the workforce development and education bill is about opportunity.

“That’s what excites me about this bill so much, House Bill 1002, the governor’s initiative on workforce, in my mind, is exactly about that, creating opportunities or more importantly taking advantage of opportunities,” he said.

The legislation will benefit students in Owl Manufacturing and other similar programs across the state and help them “incrementally grow their careers,” Perfect said.

“There has to be opportunity for people to be able to move forward and take advantage of it,” he said.

With programs like Owl Manufacturing in place to support students, they can grow and find their way in the modern economy, he added.

Owl Manufacturing is an advanced manufacturing class that operates as a student-operated business. It started in the fall of 2016 and has grown from 15 students to more than 40, and next year’s class is expected to have around 90 students.

Using equipment such as a Haas CNC Mill, a large-format vinyl printer and cutter, a laser printer/engraver, a three-dimensional scanner and printers and a silk screen press, students are able to design, make, market and sell a variety of products.

Jackie Hill, workforce director for Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., said Owl Manufacturing has been so successful that local industrial employers are looking to hire participants for internships, summer employment and even full-time jobs.

“They’re lining up at the door because they want these kids to come work for them,” she said.

The program’s success is evident in students like senior Dylan Rigdon, who served as president of Owl Manufacturing last year.

He hopes to come back to the program next year as an instructor while working at Cummins Inc. through an internship he has secured thanks to his involvement with Owl Manufacturing.

“It has opened up doors for students that they didn’t know could even be opened,” he said. “It’s a tremendous program. The students learn skills that some people go to college to learn.”

Rigdon said students are coming right out of high school with the skills needed to be hired by companies such as Cummins and Aisin.

“We lack people in Jackson County that have those skills,” he said. “This program helps them fill that gap.”

Serving in a supervisory role with Owl Manufacturing, Rigdon said it’s amazing to see students grow in their skills and confidence and to see the program continue to grow, too.

“It has come a long way, and I’m excited to watch it continue to grow,” he said.

Students presented Holcomb with several gifts they had made, including a ball cap, a screen-printed hooded sweatshirt, a laser-etched glass Indiana plaque and a 3-D printed Owl statue.

Teacher Curt Schleibaum said his students rose to the occasion Tuesday in welcoming Holcomb and sharing the story of Owl Manufacturing.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them and the program they have all helped build,” he said. “It is a true example of what can happen when teamwork, community support and a little crazy idea all come together.”

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