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Origins of the Elkhart Area Career Center

The roots of the EACC can be traced back to a generous donation and expectation given by a group of local businessmen led by Basil Turner, former CEO of the CTS corporation. In response to the Studebaker plant closing in the mid-1960s, local business leaders believed a training center was needed to prepare a local workforce for employment opportunities across Elkhart County. Mr. Turner approached Harold Oyer, Superintendent of Elkhart Schools, with the desire to donate money and land in order to create new facilities for the district, but mandated that a school be created for students that were not college bound. 

The corporation agreed and planning began for the future construction of the Elkhart Area Career Center, along with Elkhart Memorial High School, Woodland Elementary School, and the Elkhart Community Schools Administration Building on a 140-acre plot of land located on California Road. In December of 1968, leaders met to begin planning for development of the EACC and outline programming, usage, and direction of the new technical education center. Access to the EACC was discussed during these sessions and foundational leaders, including the school’s first director Joseph Miller, thought it was important to serve all who had an interest in the “world of work.”

EACC Groundbreaking


EACC - 1971


Year One: 1971-1972

The EACC first opened its doors for the 1971-72 school year with 18 sending school partners. Original programs included: secretarial skills, clerical skills, auto body and auto mechanics, building trades, technical drafting, electronics, graphic arts and advance printing, welding, health occupations, commercial sewing, food service, horticulture, radio and television, and audio-visual technology. Roughly 300 students from Elkhart High School were served by the EACC in its first year of operation

The 1970s

The 1970s saw the fine-tuning of programs as the career center adjusted to local needs during a time of change, setting the stage for creating an educational facility that was, and has remained, truly responsive to community and economic needs. 

In the mid-1970s, the most popular programs at the EACC included welding, auto mechanics, and auto repair. Cosmetology became an extremely popular program for high school girls, as did the EACC's nurses aid, secretarial, and commercial sewing.

1970's EACC - Cosmetology - Student styling customer hair
EACC - 1970s -1

In April 1974, WVPE radio and WNIT television officially launched and went on the air, being run by EACC students in the new Radio and Television Operations program. Students were responsible for programming during school hours, with student volunteers staying after school until 11:00pm each night.  

EACC - 1970s - 2

In 1975, the Construction Trades program completed a two-year construction of their first house, which was fully landscaped by EACC's Horticulture program.

This same year, numerous programs began offering products and services to the public. 

  • Construction Trades sold utility barns, benches, and cabinets to the community.
  • Recreational Vehicle Building and Repair, a program in which students built recreational vehicles, such as small travel trailers, pick-up cabs, and truck campers, also began selling directly to end users.
  • Cosmetology began a salon, offering community members haircuts, perms, and more. Additionally, the Cosmetology program assisted Elkhart Memorial with makeup for drama productions.
  • Graphic Arts became responsible for most of Elkhart Memorial's commercial printing, including the student newspaper, report cards, sports programs, and more. 

The late 1970s saw additional growth in Drafting, boasting that 100% of graduates has job placements post-graduation, growing alongside the expanding recreational vehicle and manufactured housing markets in Elkhart.

As technology continued to advance, Computer Programming was first offered for the 1977-78 school year. 

By the end of the 1970s, the EACC was serving just under 1,000 students every year. 

EACC - 1970s 3


The 1980s

In 1981, the EACC celebrated a 10-Year Anniversary. At the time, the following programs were offered: auto body repair, auto mechanics, building trades, commercial art, commercial photography, computer programming/data processing, cosmetology, electronics, food service, graphic arts/printing, health occupations, heating-air conditioning-refrigeration, horticulture, interior design/decorating, machine trades, medical office assistant, medical secretary, mobile home & recreational vehicle construction, radio production, restaurant management, secretarial/word processing, small engine repair, technical drafting, television production, and welding. 

EACC - 1980s 1

In 1982, the EACC's Construction Trades program moved a house from Roy Avenue to Morehouse Avenue, becoming the first high school class in the United States to move and remodel an entire house. 

As the 1980s advanced, an increasing number of high school students were swayed from dropping out of high school by taking an interest in pursuing programming at the EACC. Successfully completing an EACC program became a pathway to a lifelong career for many students of the 1980s. 

EACC - 1980s - 2

Changes to state policies in 1985 made it more difficult for students to pursue vocational-based training, due to an increase of the minimum number of hours a student needed to be at their home school. The EACC began to see a decline in the number of students served.

An Early Childhood Education program was launched for the 1987-88 school year after a successful beginning of the Teenage Parent Program (TAPP) the previous year. 

EACC - 1980s - 3

In 1989, Cosmetology students were required to complete 500 shampoos and sets, 100 perms, 110 haircuts, and 40 finger waves. 

In 1989, students who successfully completed the Construction Trades program were earning wages of $20-30 per hour. 

EACC - 1980s 4


The 1990s

Prior to the 1991-92 school year, the EACC welcomed a new director, Steward Baylor, who would significantly enhance the quality of education being provided. Dr. Baylor came to the EACC with a wealth of knowledge based on his years running a career center in South Carolina and teaching vocational education classes at Ball State University.  The previous year the EACC had experienced its lowest enrollment since inception and Dr. Baylor provided a mandate for improving the center. Among the list of directives was strengthening academic focus and becoming fully competency based across all programs. 

EACC - 1990s - 1

One of the original areas of programming, health occupations, saw significant growth in the 1990s. A nursing assistant program was started prior to the 1990-91 school year and within 5 years staffing in health occupations grew to three instructors and programming was increased to offer second year training and dental instruction.

Machine Trades became a popular program in 1992-1993 and Cosmetology continued to remain one of the most popular offerings. 

Student interest in public safety led to the launch of a Law Enforcement program for the 1993-94 school year and five years later a Firefighting program was started. 

These changes implemented under Dr. Baylor led to increased enrollment over the next five years and created a need for increased programming space. The annex building was acquired and made ready to serve students in the automotive and construction fields for the 1996-97 school year. 

EACC - 1990s - 4

In the mid- and late-1990s, culinary and restaurant management became popular programs. 

The introduction of the computer in drafting compelled the EACC to begin offering CAD courses prior to the 1999-2000 school year. 

In 1999, the EACC served 1,121 students.

The 2000s

Next, a massive building project was proposed that would increase the center by over 20,000 square feet and allow modification to be made in an effort to provide necessary technology for programming. 

EACC 2001 Construction 1

The project was completed in time for the 2002-03 school year and allowed the Early Childhood Education, Child Care, and Preschool programs to move away from the Rice Educational building and join other programs on the main campus. 

EACC 2001 Construction 2

Popular programs in the early 2000's included CAD, Cosmetology, Automotive, and Health programs. 

EACC - 2000s - 1
EACC - 2000s - 2

The 2010s

During the 2008-2010 recession, EACC programs experienced both challenges and many opportunities for growth. CTE programs focus on providing students with practical skills and knowledge for specific industries or careers. The recession had a significant impact on the job market, leading to increased recognition of the importance of preparing students with practical skills that align with workforce needs. The flooded job market became even more competitive for entry-level positions.

EACC - 2010s - 1

Important aspects for continued growth in the 2010's included focusing on the following areas:

  1. Relevance to Job Market: The economic downturn highlighted the need for a skilled workforce capable of meeting the demands of evolving industries. EACC programs gained importance as they were seen as essential for preparing students with practical skills and knowledge that directly applied to available job opportunities.

  2. Increased Enrollment: As traditional job markets faced challenges, more students and parents recognized the value of EACC programs. Enrollment in EACC courses and programs increased as students sought pathways that provided practical skills and enhanced their employability.

  3. Industry Partnerships: EACC programs forged stronger partnerships with local industries to ensure that the curriculum remained relevant and aligned with the evolving needs of the workforce. These partnerships often included internships, guest speaking, tours, and mentorship programs to give students real-world experience.

  4. Technological Emphasis: The recession coincided with rapid technological advancements. EACC programs adapted by incorporating technology-focused curricula to equip students with the skills needed in an increasingly digital workforce.

  5. Federal Funding and Support: Recognizing the importance of CTE in addressing economic challenges, the federal government increased its support for CTE programs during this period. Funding was directed towards modernizing facilities, updating equipment, and enhancing teacher training.

  6. Diversification of Programs: EACC programs expanded to cover a broader range of industries and professions. This diversification allowed students to explore a variety of career paths, from healthcare and information technology to manufacturing and green energy.

  7. Emphasis on College and Career Readiness: The recession underscored the significance of not only preparing students for immediate employment but also for higher education. EACC programs started incorporating elements that emphasized both college and career readiness, providing students with versatile skills.

EACC program offerings in the 2010s were similar to today, with an increased focus on Health-related and Automotive-related occupations, as well as steady popularity in the Cosmetology and Law Enforcement programs.

EACC - 2010s - 2

The 2020s

As the need for career and technical education continued to grow, the need for additional classroom and lab space continued to grow. 

In January 2020, the EACC opened the Automotive Service and Diesel Service Technology building on the annex property on County Road 10, expanding the property to three buildings (Auto Service and Diesel Service; MotorSports, Auto Service, and Collision Repair; Construction).

EACC - 2020 Construction Annex

As the 2020s saw the unification of Elkhart Central and Elkhart Memorial high schools, the district sought to position EACC programs near similar EHS classes, resulting in renovation to the high school to provide dedicated space for EACC's communication-based programs (Audio/Visual, Graphic Design, Photography) on the far edge of the building for easy access to EACC students.

Sitting between Elkhart High School and the Elkhart Area Career Center is the Engineering, Technology, and Innovation Building - a shared space for EACC and EHS programs - that formally opened in Fall 2021. Today, the EACC's CNC Machining, Mechatronics, Robotics & Engineering Technology, and Welding Technology programs are located in the ETI Building.

EACC - 2020 - ETI Building

The 2023 school year saw the addition of a Barbering program, launched in collaboration with Eden Barber Academy, located near downtown Elkhart. 

The 2023 school year also saw the relocation of Education Professions to be housed within a neighboring elementary school, providing students with a truly immersive learning experience. 

EACC - 2023 - Barbering - Education Professions

In 2023, as the demand for CTE programming continues to rise, the EACC began an expansion of the main building, as well as the annex properties, to house additional students. Planned physical expansions to transportation programs, law enforcement programs, and health field programs will begin in 2024 and are slated to by complete within 2-3 years. 

The Future

EACC continues to monitor the needs of our local economy through data, as well as through collaboration with local businesses and organizations. We continue to add programs when the demand arises, as well as retire programs when the job market demand decreases. 

Continued partnerships allow the EACC to maintain modern equipment and buildings through donations and sponsorships. 

To learn more about the ways you can support the EACC's growth trajectory, please visit Business Partners.