Recently Tom Bechman sat down with Mike Pence for an exclusive interview. For 45 minutes Pence fielded questions about not only agriculture, but what it will take to keep Indiana working and move the economy forward. One of his big talking points is a return to more vocational training in high schools for students who aren't going to college.
Here are excerpts from that interview, including the discussion about education.
IPF: Would you leave vocational education at high school and secondary levels as it is, or restructure it? If so, how?
PENCE: The time has come to make career and vocational education (a priority) at every high school in Indiana again. Schools need to work for all our kids. Less than 1% of high school graduates receive a core 40 diploma with a technical (specialty). We need new pathways in our high schools for kids.
Honorable work is honest work. If we can get kids not going to college ready for clerical, skilled labor jobs or agricultural jobs it's the right thing to do for our kids and the economy.
We have a growing partnership between industry and agriculture. They already work together on professional classes – we want to make that work with schools. We want to create Indiana Workers Councils where educational leaders, business people and ag leaders discuss what should be available for kids (in high schools) so they're ready to go to work. We would expect the Department of Education to approve these pathways. It will mean jobs for the long term future of Indiana.
We want kids to see a place at each high school where they fit in if they're not college-bound. If we do our job, we should see a huge dent in the dropout rate.
IPF: Ethanol was important to agriculture's comeback over the last five years. Would you have a policy that affects ethanol producers?
PENCE: I've been largely supportive of ethanol in Congress. I'm grateful to see the investment that's been made in Indiana. It holds great promise for our local economies and also meeting energy needs.
During this drought, we need to be sensitive to the impact producing ethanol might have on the cost of feed for livestock. There's a safety valve in regulatory mandates that allows for the market to breathe in the event of shortages. We don't want to jeopardize the vitality of livestock producers.