All About the Innovation Districts

Larry Gigerich, executive managing director at Ginovus and an Indiana Chamber board member, recently wrote about innovation districts and their importance – accessing talent, collaborating with higher educational institutions and partnering with other private sector companies.

Below are three of the lists he shared as part of that writing:

Innovation District Characteristics

  • Proximity to higher educational research assets (university, college, hospital, etc.)
  • Presence of research based organizations (non-profit and/or for profit)
  • Location of technology enabled company facilities
  • Magnets (quality of place assets) for talent
  • Available real estate for development
  • Access to the different forms of transportation
  • Co-working space for researchers
  • Retail services to support people working in the area

 Well-Established U.S. Innovation Districts

  • The Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor
  • Kendall Square in Cambridge
  • University City in Philadelphia
  • Research Triangle Park in Raleigh-Durham
  • Medical Alley in Rochester
  • University Research Park in Madison
  • Research Park in Salt Lake City
  • South Lake Union in Seattle

 Developing Innovation Districts

  •  Cortex in St. Louis
  • 16 Tech in Indianapolis
  • Future City in Detroit
  • Akron Innovation District
  • Syracuse Innovation Zone
  • The Innovation District of Chattanooga
  • University Research Park in Ames
  • Yanke Research Park in Boise

Women Gain Legislative Seats

The share of women holding state legislative seats across the country reached 20% following the 1992 election. It took 26 more years for that number to climb past 25%. The National Conference of State Legislatures breaks down the numbers:

By the Numbers

  • 1,866: Female legislators in the 50 states
  • 1,141: Democrats
  • 704: Republicans
  • 8: Third party
  • 13: Nonpartisan
  • 66: Female leaders in the 50 states
  • 18.9%: Leaders who are women
  • 44: Democratic leaders
  • 22: Republican leaders
  • 6: House speakers
  • 3: Senate presidents

States with the highest percentage of female legislators:

  1. Arizona, 41.1%
  2. Vermont, 40%
  3. Nevada, 39.7%
  4. Colorado, 38%
  5. Washington, 37.4%
  6. Illinois, 35%
  7. Maine, 33.9%
  8. Minnesota, 32.3%
  9. Oregon, 32.2%
  10. Maryland, 31.9%

#BizVoiceExtra: A Good Challenge to Have

Call it a pleasant problem – and one I had not considered previously despite this being the 13th year of the Best Places to Work in Indiana program. You’re a winning company and you have a lot of team members who want to take part in the annual awards celebration. So what do you do?

A few organizations in the past have indicated a lottery-style system to determine attendees. During the roundtable discussion in our current issue, representatives of two of the winning companies this time around broached the topic.

Joshua Plank of WestPoint Financial noted he was sad to be missing out in 2018 due to an out-of-town commitment, but that the company table often includes “a couple of recruiters, maybe one or two partners and then typically younger people so they can see it and be a part of it. They think it’s the greatest thing ever.”

Pamela Carrington Rotto of J.C. Hart says her team takes a similar approach.

“The event, of course, is huge and we try to get a variety of folks from across the organization there. That’s always really fun and exciting for people, and it’s a great way for associates who are emerging leaders to kind of get in and see what that looks like and to be a part of it.”

The third roundtable participant is Matthew Griffin of The Garrett Companies, a Best Places winner in its first year of eligibility (recent growth helped it soar past the 15-employee minimum). While the expansion has been impressive, it is also taking place at a controlled pace.

“It has been rapid, but we still feel like we’re growing strategically. We are in a very favorable market for multi-family (real estate) development across the country,” he shares. “Our investors and our bank lending partners would like to do more deals with us and we’ve strategically said, ‘No, we’re going to do this much capacity because we (won’t be) able to perform the way we’re performing now.’ ”

The Garrett Companies, welcome to the “who’s going to attend the celebration” dilemma. It’s one that many others would like to face. And to see if that could be your organization in 2019, learn more (and apply this summer) at www.bestplacestoworkIN.com.

Griffin, Plank and Carrington Rotto provide insights on what their organizations do to establish strong workplace cultures, how they cope with industry-based turnover challenges and much more in the May-June BizVoice®.

A Path to CTE Success

Massachusetts has long been recognized as a K-12 education leader. (In the most recent Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card unveiled in 2017, it ranked in the top five in all the most significant education categories at the K-12 and postsecondary levels). It is now receiving high praise for its work in the career and technical education (CTE) area.

Laws and policies are certainly a starting point. The Alliance for Vocational Technical Education (AVTE) offers the following guidance for states seeking similar results:

Access and equity

It’s important that all students, regardless of their background or needs, have the opportunity to enroll in high-quality CTE programs. A necessary condition of that is providing students and parents with quality information about their options. And in terms of equity, states should make sure that admission policies and procedures aren’t biased in favor of certain students or certain populations.      

Infrastructure

Without the proper infrastructure in place, CTE programs can’t serve students well, let alone contribute to closing achievement gaps. AVTE points to a few key aspects of good infrastructure, namely employing effective teachers and staff, updated facilities and access to appropriate equipment. Perhaps the most important lesson is that high-quality CTE sectors need reliable and adequate funding. Modernized buildings, proper equipment, and highly qualified staff cost money, and states that want the benefits of excellent career and technical education must be ready to fund them.

Curriculum, instruction and assessment

In the past, CTE has been labeled as “blue-collar stuff” best left for kids who aren’t on a college path. Many of today’s programs, however, are just the opposite. Students earn industry-recognized credentials that will place them in good-paying jobs, but they also earn associate and bachelor’s degrees. This transformation has a lot to do with the curriculum, instruction and assessments used by the programs.

For starters, high expectations must be non-negotiable. CTE students should never be held to lower standards than their peers in traditional academic programs. And curricula should be aligned to state academic standards, as well as national benchmarks and local employer needs. States should also carefully consider how to license and train their CTE teachers; AVTE recommends using nationally validated teacher competency testing. As for assessments, AVTE recommends utilizing pre- and post-technical tests to measure exactly what students know and are able to do.

Career readiness

The primary goal of CTE programs is to prepare students for careers. To this end, AVTE recommends collaborating with recognized industry credential providers like NOCTI to develop state-customized credentials that accurately measure readiness. Similar to the way a good ACT or SAT score demonstrates college readiness, earning an externally validated credential can give CTE students solid proof of their readiness and skills. AVTE also emphasizes the importance of meaningful partnerships between CTE programs, businesses and community members.

Data and outcomes

There’s no way to determine whether programs are effective without measurable outcomes, such as rates of graduation, dropout, job placement, and college-going and persistence. States should make these data easily accessible to the public so that students and their families can make well-informed choices.

More Than Just Policy Advocacy

The advocacy efforts of the Indiana Chamber are not limited to the state level or laws passed by the Indiana General Assembly or Congress. In early 2017, members provided input into the most onerous federal rules and regulations that were impacting their businesses.

At the end of 2017, we reported significant progress in a number of areas. In case you missed it, here is that review (https://www.indianachamber.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/RegulatoryPrioritiesforTrumpAdminDONE.pdf) of actions taken by the President, federal agencies or the courts.

In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy gives an additional example:

It concerned the application of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act to movie theaters. After receiving input from theater operators, the Department of Justice reduced the amount of closed captioning and descriptive equipment that theaters are required to purchase. The change resulted in small business savings of $66 million between the proposed and final rule.

The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA) was enacted to address the disproportionate burden of regulation on small businesses. The Office of Advocacy reports that efforts to promote federal agency compliance with RFA resulted in $913.4 million in regulatory cost savings for small entities in fiscal year 2017.

Breaking Down the Women in Tech Numbers

Increasing diversity in technology remains an ongoing goal. A global 2018 Women in Tech Index provides some interesting numbers and perspective:

The study focuses on 41 countries in the European Union and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). It compares the proportion of female employees, gender wage gap and opportunities for women in the IT field, among other criteria.  

“McKinsey found that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality.  As tech recruitment specialists, we are often confronted with the gender imbalances of the industry,” says Emma Tracey, co-founder at Honeypot (a leading technology career platform). “With the proportion of female tech workers remaining under 30% across the board, we hope that this study will enrich the conversation concerning equality in this industry and inspire more women to seek out opportunities in tech.”

  • Portugal, the United States and Latvia offer the best opportunities for women in tech, with an industry gender pay gap around 6-7% less than the overall average wage gap in each country.
  • The United States offers the highest wages to women working in tech, at $86,608 per annum, followed by Ireland ($60,558) and Switzerland ($59,029).
  • At 30%, Bulgaria has the highest percentage of women working in tech, followed by Australia with 28% and Romania at 26%. The U.S. is at 24.6%.
  • Lithuania has the highest percentage of overall female workforce, at 51.17%, one of only two (alongside Latvia at 50.25%) countries in the index that have a higher percentage of women than men in their workforce. Turkey has the smallest percentage of female workforce, at 31.55%.
  • Latvia has the highest percentage of women legislators, senior officials and managers at 44.4%, while South Korea has the least with 10.7%.
  • Sweden has the highest percentage of women in parliament positions, at 44.5%, while Japan has the least, at 9.9%.
  • Finland has the highest percentage of women in ministerial positions at 62.5%. Notably, France is the only country with 50% of its ministerial cabinet made up of women. Hungary and the Slovak Republic both have zero women in ministerial positions.
  • Luxembourg has the highest overall wage for women, at $59,191 per annum. Bulgaria has the lowest, at $12,278.
  • The United States has the most women working in the tech industry, at just under 1.5 million. Malta has the least, with 800 women working in tech.
  • The United States offers the highest wage both overall in tech and for women in tech, at $98,265 and $86,608 respectively. Mexico offers the lowest wages in tech, both overall and for women, at $19,492 and $15,456 respectively.

Proposing a New High School Way

High school reimagined (and we mean truly reimagined) was the title of the winning entry in the Fordham Institute’s annual policy Wonkathon (asking this time whether graduation requirements need to change). Here is that powerful article (with a nod to Indiana) from two leaders of K12 Inc, an online learning provider:

So what is the purpose of high school in America? We think most agree that it is to train our students up to be responsible and productive citizens. But how exactly do we measure that? Research over the years has shown the numerous benefits of high school completion, how it improves the likelihood of higher wages and decreases the likelihood of being arrested for a crime, for example. This type of research led to a focus on graduation as the ultimate measurement. It’s as though we believed that something magical happened by simply pushing all students to get across the graduation stage in four years.

In turn, while the national graduation rate has soared to record highs from 2005 to 2015, the value of a high school diploma, as measured by median annual earnings, has taken a significant dip over that same time period. The value of the diploma has decreased, even as more students have crossed the stage. Would we say that 84.1 percent of our students, all those who graduated in 2016, are leaving high school prepared for successful lives? Ask ten people and we bet you won’t get a single “yes.” Therein lies the problem we are faced with today.

Where did we go wrong and how do we fix it? First, it’s important to change how we measure success. If we want high schools to ultimately turn out responsible and productive citizens and we agree that not every graduate in America today fits that criteria, then let’s not use graduation rate as our ultimate measure of success. Let’s instead measure the outcomes we wish to see after high school; things like employment rates, median annual wages, job satisfaction, and postsecondary educational program enrollment and completion rates. Are these metrics as easy to calculate and report out for every school and district as the four-year cohort graduation rate? No. Should that prevent us from doing it? No (but it often does).

With our focus firmly planted on student outcomes after high school, we can now begin to reimagine the experience itself. The solution – personalized learning, the educational buzz word that has every school across the nation attempting to better serve each student’s unique needs and goals. All the while the system in which these schools operate has continued its one-size-fits-all model. The right hand is saying, “Every child is unique, has different strengths and weakness and dreams, and should have ownership and agency over his/her learning,” yet the left hand is simultaneously shouting, “But don’t forget you need to ensure he/she masters every single rigorous standard, passes every standardized test, and graduates college-and-career ready in four years.” It’s time we take the hands and align the left with the right (and no, that isn’t a political joke).

To build a personalized learning model that effectively graduates students prepared to successfully contribute to society, let’s do three things:

  • Embrace cross-curricular competency-based learning
  • Personalize graduation paths
  • Realign learning across the preschool to higher education/career continuum

Cross-curricular competency-based learning

Across the country at this very minute, there are thousands of students sitting in classes they could have aced on the very first day of school. An even larger population of students are being dragged along to more advanced concepts before they are ready simply because the teacher needs to cover all of the course objects in the allotted amount of days for the semester.

Our current system based entirely on the accrual of seat time and credits in individual subject areas is incredibly outdated. Instead, our high school “graduation plan” should be a cross-curricular checklist of knowledge and skills that students should master in order to graduate. Education Reimagined is partnering with schools nationwide to make learner-centered education like this a reality. The beauty of this model is that it not only allows a student to advance at his/her own pace, but it opens up a wide range of pathways by which a student can demonstrate mastery, which leads us to our next recommendation.

Personalized graduation paths

It’s time we truly acknowledge that every student is unique and in turn provide fully personalized graduation paths. Career and technical education (CTE) and college preparation programs should be seen as equals, preparing students for the next step they choose to take. For example, if the graduation checklist requires students to be able to write a research paper, let’s give them an option to fulfill that in any course whether that is advanced English Literature or a welding course.

A 2016 CTE Study from the Fordham Institute shows many benefits to a quality CTE program, including an increased likelihood that the student will graduate from high school, enroll in a two-year college, and be employed with a higher wage after graduation. Every student should be given control to create a path toward graduation that uses his/her interests and future plans as a foundation upon which to add relevant coursework, internships, and life skills training. Indiana seems to be leading the way in this area with recently-approved Graduation Pathways.

Realignment across the learning continuum

Embracing the above two recommendations means a shift in American high schools as we know them. Knowing that, it is important that our last recommendation be to reimagine learning across the entire preschool to higher education/career continuum. Instead of moving students in primary grades with age cohorts, let’s focus on competency-based mastery. Give students who need extra time the time that they need to gain understanding and allow those who are ready to move on the chance to advance.

Instead of labeling a student as a “failure” for not having graduated from high school in four years, set the expectation that students may master all of the competencies required in anywhere from three to seven years. Connect that high school graduation checklist with expectations of colleges, universities, career training programs, and jobs in order to ensure that when students do graduate they are truly prepared to embrace the next step, whatever that is for them.

So with three simple recommendations we have successfully turned the entire high school system on its head.

Celebrating Failure or Something Else?

Kris Taylor focuses on change and change leadership in her coaching/consulting practice. In a recent writing, she questions the “celebrating failure” message. Or maybe it’s the wording used. Decide for yourself. The full post includes additional information on organizational behaviors to remove and embrace.

Face it: Failure stinks. No one I know likes it. And even the most successful and creative people I know, don’t celebrate things that turned out poorly.

Yet a mantra that has emerged in the last five years is to “celebrate” failure. Really? Celebrate?

Failure

While I get, on some level, the reasoning to encourage people to take a risk and actually “do something” or to even possibly do “something big” – the notion of celebrating failure is not, what I believe, is in anyone’s best interest.

Working in and with organizations, I fully recognize the great extents to which people will take to avoid looking “less than” or “foolish” or “incapable”. I also fully recognize the games that are played (some with intention and some unconsciously) to garner the coveted raise or promotion and at times, survive the latest reorganization.

Anything “less than” often is hidden, buried, ignored or rationalized away. I’ve seen multi-million projects that were abject failures be allowed to linger on, all to avoid embarrassment. I’ve seen amazing amounts of money, time and effort be put into a failing project in an attempt to prop it enough to get it over the finish line, only to declare “done” and then allow it to wither away.

And so, let’s celebrate creativity and contributing new ideas. Let’s celebrate experimentation, observation and rapid learning. Let’s celebrate bold steps forward into the ambiguous unknown future. Let’s celebrate persistence and pivots and progress.

And when we fail, we celebrate picking ourselves up, reflecting on what happened, and starting anew – smarter, more resilient and more likely to succeed this time around.

Developing the Entrepreneurial System – Here and There

ecosystem

A professor from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is writing from his home state’s perspective, but sharing insights regarding Midwest entrepreneurial ecosystems and how they might differ from international efforts. He notes four key elements, including the always popular capital and worker skill aspects:

  1. The most important step is connecting with your customer

While understanding the basic fundamentals of cash flow and knowing how to manage a staff is important, businesses everywhere must put finding the customer first if they want to be successful. For Midwestern businesses, that might be a challenge for marketing. For startups in some developing economies, the search can be less abstract: Infrastructure challenges can make connecting with customers more difficult. For example, in Vietnam, the single biggest platform for ecommerce is Facebook — but in rural Morocco, a lack of infrastructure makes ecommerce virtually impossible. Interpersonal connections and marketplaces remain indispensable.

  1. Success begets success

In the United States, the story of every successful startup cluster begins with capital — and one of the best sources of capital is another company’s exit. We’ve also seen that for every $1 a Michigan startup receives from a Michigan VC firm, it attracts $4.61 of investment from outside of Michigan. Cash is the fertilizer, and the more of it in the environment, then the more likely the economy will grow.

This logic doesn’t always hold in developing economies, one of the hallmarks of which is no middle class and a huge income disparity. When wealth is created in these environments, there are many places that the money can be reinvested in besides another startup: to fund education, for example, or to buy more land. That being said, more wealth generated by new venture activity has the potential to lift the income threshold and lead to a more stable, flourishing economy. 

  1. Give your talent the fulfillment they need

A major challenge for small communities is talent, no matter where they are located. But talent isn’t just about having smart people — it’s about having people with the skills needed to build a business, and a community that can support them. In the Midwest, that talent gap often takes the form of local workers who are educated, well-trained, and experienced in running a business, but who might not choose to stay and work in their communities if there aren’t opportunities that appeal to them.

Robust entrepreneurial ecosystems with more activity have the potential to attract top talent away from more metropolitan areas. It can become a self-sustaining cycle once it gets going, but may take a significant event or local unicorn to get it kicked into action. In developing countries, that more often looks like workers who have limited skills, who need the determination and resources to invest in themselves — and who need an ecosystem that can provide them with that base.

  1. Take local differences into account

What works in Silicon Valley doesn’t always work in Chicago — and what works in Kosovo might not work in Vietnam. When it comes to translating what has worked in one place to another, the details become local, and critical. Some business climates trust banks and credit lines; others operate solely in cash. In some places, the local language is widely spoken; in others, that local language could be six different dialects. Just as the National Venture Capital Association has local chapters to better understand and focus on the small ecosystems being built all over the United States, context is everything for entrepreneurs looking to get off the ground no matter where they are.

While languages, customs, and currency differ from country to country, one thing doesn’t: When entrepreneurs and innovation win, it can lift the outlook of an entire economy. With the right resources and support, the Midwest has stepped up to create the jobs and standing it needs to survive in the modern economy — and developing ecosystems around the world are doing the same.

An Overhaul of High School Policies

What do we do to help our K-12 education system function at a higher level? There is no shortage of suggestions or recommendations.

Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is one of the more authoritative voices in this area. An excerpt from a recent column focuses on turning the system upside down. Currently, he writes:

“We have a system whereby millions of teenagers sleepwalk through so-called college-prep classes, graduate (sometimes without earning it), get pushed into college (often into remedial courses), and quickly drop out. It’s “bachelor’s degree or bust,” and for the majority of kids, the result is bust.

So what might work better? Twelve years ago, the Tough Choices or Tough Times report made an intriguing set of recommendations that would make the American system more like those in Europe. It’s time to dust it off again. Here’s my spin on them.

  1. In ninth or tenth grade, all students should sit for a set of gateway exams. Think of them as high school “entrance exams” rather than “exit exams.” They would assess pupils on reading, writing, math, science, history, and civics – the essential content and skills that all students should be expected to know to be engaged and educated citizens. There would also be a component assessing students’ career interests and aptitudes as best as these can be gauged for fifteen-year-olds.
  2. Students who pass the exams would then choose among several programs for the remainder of their high school years – programs that all could take place under the same roof. Some would be traditional “college-prep,” with lots of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or dual-enrollment courses. Others would be high quality career and technical education offerings designed to lead directly into degree or certificate programs at a technical college. All of the programs could set entrance requirements that ensure that students are ready to succeed in them. And their selectivity would make them prestigious and appealing to a wide range of students. At the end of high school, students would graduate with special designations on their diplomas indicating that they are ready for postsecondary education or training without the need for remediation.
  3. Students who don’t pass the exams would enter developmental programs specifically designed to help them catch up and pass the tests on their second or third (or fourth or fifth) tries. Those that catch up quickly can join their peers in the college-prep or CTE programs.

It’s a lot to tackle. It’s harder than just chastising teachers and principals who graduate kids who can’t read or do math. But in my view, its time has come. Perhaps one of the men or women running for governor this year would like to give it a try.

graduates