Promising Future: Initiative Seeks Change in Education Culture

bizvoicepicAs an assistant principal with Wabash City Schools, Jason Callahan recalls sitting and watching parents “who were signing their 16-year-old kids out from school – and how empty that feels. You feel like you just lost this kid for life, and they’re only 16.”

In reality, those students were “lost” years before their official withdrawal from school. Lost because there was no recognition of the power of education or perceived hope for a bright future.

Today, in Wabash County and three other northeastern Indiana locales (and maybe someday throughout the state and beyond) communities are making a “promise” to prevent that from happening.

Why is that promise so important?

“It really is an opportunity for us to tell kids in our community that we care about them, that we care about their education,” says Casey Weimer, CEO of the Cole Family YMCA – the convening agency for the Promise program in Noble and LaGrange counties. “That we don’t want the circumstances that kids have in their lives or where they come from to determine their futures. Dream as big as they want to dream.”

Adds Jill Ostrem, senior vice president of health and well-being at Parkview Health (a financial supporter of the Promise initiative in its four current counties, including Whitley): “It’s been amazing – to make sure kids know anything is possible. Every child’s future should only be determined by their potential.”

Read the rest of the story in BizVoice.

VIDEO: Mitch Daniels Discusses Cutting Government with Reason Magazine

Matt Welch of Reason magazine, a libertarian publication, sat down with former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels to discuss his thoughts on making government more efficient, as well as social issues, the debt and being president of Purdue University.

INTERNnet Partnership with enFocus in Northern Indiana to Battle Brain Drain

enfcouseThis column originally appeared in the Inside INdiana Business BigWigs & New Gigs newsletter.

Indiana INTERNnet (IIN) is forging partnerships with regional groups that share equal tenacity for increasing talent retention in the state. Our newest partner, enFocus, is already making a difference in South Bend.

enFocus is a “talent incubator and social innovation engine” whose approach is to cultivate what’s in its own backyard.

Its fellowship program encourages recent graduates from the area to stay and help develop St. Joseph County by giving them the resources to solve real community problems. In addition, a partnership with the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce is creating more internships in the area than ever before.

IIN has teamed up with enFocus to pilot a strategic feedback mechanism for experiential learning program development, expansion and improvement in St. Joseph County, with the goal of expanding it statewide. The comprehensive survey will measure internship success and the impact on talent retention.

Kathleen Ryan, a first-year fellow at enFocus and project lead on the survey pilot, credits an internship as the key to discovering what she truly wanted out of her career.

“It is because of an internship with a community health outreach organization during my senior year of college that I pursued an enFocus internship,” she explains . “At that time, I fully intended to continue on to medical school post-graduation. Through this experiential learning experience, however, I found that I was more drawn to community development.”

This type of career exploration is the cornerstone of enFocus’ mission in St. Joseph County and IIN’s mission statewide. enFocus works to curb the area’s brain drain with a two-pronged system: consulting with local organizations and offering time and resources to its fellows, who work to find solutions for regional industries. Following the program, enFocus works to place fellows in jobs in the area.

Since its inception in 2012, enFocus and its fellows facilitated regional projects like SB150, South Bend’s 150th birthday celebration, and the Regional Cities Initiative.

enFocus also partners with the St. Joseph County Chamber and its internship program, InternSJC.

“Through InternSJC we offer consultative services to local companies, working with them to make internships more valuable, efficient and exciting for company staff and students seeking employment in the area post-graduation,” Ryan describes. “Also through InternSJC, we help facilitate a summer community engagement program for interns in the area, seeking to improve the student experience and perception of our region’s opportunities through social programming, networking events and community service opportunities.”

All of the organization’s facets come together for a common goal: to make St. Joseph County a better place to work and live.

“We expose students and graduates to real-life issues felt by our regional partners and challenge them to alleviate those pain points,” Ryan emphasizes. “This enables them to develop professionally and gain experience while providing invaluable service to the community.

“We realize that Michiana is not the only region in Indiana that could rally around talent and youthful leadership to grow. We want to expand our model across the state to make Indiana an even more preferable place to start a career, business or family.”

IIN and local economic and community development groups are making strides in other regions as well.

For nearly 10 years, IIN has worked with the Northeast Indiana Graduate Retention Program (GRP, now a part of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.). The Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Fellows Program is a 12-month experience that connects high potential college students with Greater Fort Wayne Inc. investors who have a regular need for new talent. The program utilizes dedicated summer internship experiences as admission into the fellowship.

In Northwest Indiana, colleges and universities are joining forces to promote their students under the umbrella of Ready Northwest Indiana, an economic development and education initiative. Ancilla College, Calumet College, Valparaiso University, St. Joseph’s College and the Center of Workforce Innovations, Inc. are teaming with IIN to meet the needs of employers through a common platform to access students prepared for internships.

We look forward to the difference these efforts will make in St. Joseph County and statewide.

To register for our free service, visit www.IndianaINTERN.net, or call (317) 264-6862 to speak with our staff about your internship program.

Janet Boston is executive director of Indiana INTERNnet — an affiliate program of the Indiana Chamber.

Work Ethic Signal: Schools, Business Create PRIDE Indicator

Question

The skills gap, the difference between what employers need from an employee and the abilities the workers have to offer, is multi-faceted. Not only is there often a lack of abilities in hard skills (computer programming, mathematics and more), but also soft skills such as communication, working in teams and strong personal character.

Of the more than 530 Indiana companies responding to the 2014 Indiana Chamber Employer Survey, over 54% stated that a lack of work ethic is the most pressing issue in their hiring process, followed by communication and attendance.

“Employers are teaming with schools to better relate academic concepts to workforce needs,” says Amy Marsh, former Indiana Chamber director of college and career readiness initiatives. “Businesses are looking for employees that are ready to work on day one.”

According to the survey, more than 39% of businesses had vacancies related to underqualified applicants. To make matters more difficult for employers, more than half of businesses indicated plans to expand their workforce in the next year.

“This is not a sustainable model for moving Indiana forward,” Marsh states. “Ultimately, we want workers across the employment spectrum to be able to have a long, sustainable career that contributes to the strength of the Indiana labor force.”

Read my full story in BizVoice.

A Look Back at the Legislative Session: Some Major Accomplishments and a Few Missed Opportunities

statehouse-picMeaningful long-sought accomplishments mixed with a few missed opportunities and one highly unfortunate detour quickly tell the tale of the 2015 legislative session.

The Key Victories
The state’s common construction wage statute has unnecessarily cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars on public construction projects over many decades. With the repeal finally in place, there will be open and fair bidding among all contractors for these projects.

Also gone: The hassle of filing personal property tax returns – or paying to have them filed – for what amounted to a very small tax liability for many small businesses. This will positively impact over half of all businesses in the state – some 150,000 in total. The throwback rule – really an unfair and inappropriate tax – is eliminated, too. It allowed for Indiana to tax whatever portion of your business income that wasn’t already taxed in Indiana or elsewhere.

Other Good Outcomes
We have a balanced two-year budget that puts as much emphasis as the revenue forecast would allow in prioritizing K-12 education, higher education and expanding funding for career and technical education – all Indiana Chamber priorities.

Another focal point of ours is water resources. The General Assembly took heed of our study last summer and passed two important next-step pieces of legislation that center on getting better data on what water resources exist throughout the state.

The Governor’s Regional Cities initiative recognizes and puts an appropriate focus on the important concept of quality of place. It acknowledges that population within our state and elsewhere is shifting from rural and less populated areas to urban and suburban areas. Similarly, we are in an era where young adults are increasingly choosing the place where they want to live and then looking for employment instead of letting the job dictate their location.

We were also satisfied that a reasonable conclusion was reached regarding the property assessments of “big box” retail stores. As it was initially introduced, it would have been devastating for many businesses by putting far too much specificity into law.

Missed Opportunities and One Detour
Conversely, there are a few decisions that stand out as particularly unfortunate that more or anything wasn’t done.

A work share program that would benefit employers and their workers as well as repealing the smoker’s bill of rights for new hires are still facing resistance from key individuals, which is preventing the issues from even getting a committee hearing. Likewise, regulating the practice called lawsuit lending, which translates to prolonged litigation and more costs for employers, continues to be stymied by two legislators.

An issue we hoped was going to be properly addressed was the dysfunction between the state superintendent and the State Board of Education. The best solution and one we have advocated for the last 30 years would be to let the Governor appoint the state superintendent like he does all other agency heads. But we ended up with something not even a middle ground. Instead, Senate Bill 1 is a rather convoluted piece of legislation that does nothing in the immediate term to remedy the situation in the least.

And then there was the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the historical fallout and the “fix”. We were pleased by the legislative response to specify that in no way could that statute be used to discriminate against individuals or different groups of Hoosiers. We anticipate there will be efforts by legislators to further strengthen that stance next year.

Science on Display: Dow Ambassadors Connect with Students

dowAsking 10-year-olds their opinions about school subjects sometimes can yield unenthusiastic responses.

But when questioned if she enjoys science, Kelli Woods – a fourth grader at New Augusta South Public Academy in Indianapolis – passionately nods and answers, “Yes, very much – because I get to learn about new stuff and find out how it works.”

Kelli describes the project she entered in the school’s fourth grade science fair, in which she tested how soaking white roses in colored water would impact their appearance.

“My hypothesis was that the red (would make the rose change colors fastest) because it stains a lot,” she explains. “But it was actually the blue one.”

Dow AgroSciences’ Science Ambassadors gave guidance and judged the projects of Kelli and her classmates in late January in the New Augusta South gymnasium.

The scene was not a unique one as Dow’s brigade of over 300 staffers volunteer their time each year, often on nights and weekends. Last year, the ambassadors visited over 25 schools during about 75 events. Dow developed the program a decade ago, but added a major emphasis in 2012. Since then, officials estimate the company’s outreach efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education have impacted more than 4,200 teachers and almost 200,000 students.

Read the full story online.

Critical Connections: Team Effort a Must for Student Success

batesvilleAndy Allen, Batesville High School principal, slides into a desk in an empty English classroom and tells the story of a top student who learned after two days of a mentorship program at the local hospital that a medical career was not for her.

“She has spent the rest of the year on the health care administration side. What a great experience for her,” Allen reveals. “And all that occurred outside our walls. She has one block of time for us, 90 minutes every other day. We say, ‘Go to the hospital and work with our great partners there.’ ”

Kim Ryan, a senior vice president with Hillenbrand, Inc. and president of the company’s Batesville Casket Company platform, punctuates the beginning and end of her keynote presentation to a group of educators and business leaders with the following: “Small communities will determine our futures based on the workforce we create for ourselves today.”

Read the rest of the story in the latest BizVoice .

A Badge of Honor for Bilingual Grads

????????????????They say a picture speaks a thousand words. That notion also holds true for State Seals of Biliteracy, which recognize high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in one or more languages in addition to English.

California led the way nationwide in adopting the seal (in 2011). Indiana became the ninth state to do so during the current legislative session.

This excerpt from an NPR story has more:

Beyond shedding a more positive light on bilingualism, proponents say the seal allows employers to distinguish between people who can get by in another language from those who are truly fluent.

Each state determines who gets a seal, but several national language organizations have created guidelines. Recommendations include: passing the AP exam, the International Baccalaureate exam or the Standards-Based Measurement of Proficiency.

Today, 74% of students who earn these seals are bilingual in Spanish. More than 165 school districts are currently granting the award.

One big question about the value of the seals is whether employers care about them. UCLA professor Patricia Gándara explored that question in a 2014 study. She surveyed 289 California employers, and found that they overwhelmingly prefer hiring a multilingual person. And, they said, they would favor someone with a certification that proves it.

Kruse, the Indiana bill’s author, says the seal goes beyond the obvious choice of speaking Spanish and English.

“A lot of businesses want to know, ‘Do you know Chinese? And how do I know you know?’ And you can have your certificate as verification.”

VIDEO: A Look at the Promise Indiana Initiative

Clint Kugler of the Wabash County YMCA discusses the Promise Indiana Initiative. The initiative is helping boost college savings accounts and cultivating a fresh approach to education in the state.

Read a feature on the program in the latest edition of BizVoice.

Vincennes University Partners to Help Bridge Skills Gap

vuBusiness is good at Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. (SIA) in Lafayette. The plant is expanding, with production of the Impreza set to begin in late 2016.

But there’s a speed bump fast approaching that could cause SIA and similar companies across the state to tap the brakes, if not come to a devastating halt.

The “middle-skills gap” is troubling some of Indiana’s biggest industries: advanced manufacturing, distribution and logistics, and the skilled trades, to name a few. Middle-skills jobs are those that call for more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree – and there is a critical shortage of workers with these credentials.

Brad Rhorer, manager of associate development at SIA, says highly-technical positions that require a certification or two-year degree are the most difficult for the company to fill.

“The industrial maintenance positions are very in-depth in knowledge and experience, and a lot of people do not have (skills in) those crafts any longer,” he emphasizes. “And we’ve got an aging workforce, so retirements are looming at the same time we’re expanding. It’s the perfect storm.”

A potential solution, some say, is to better coordinate education curriculum and work-based learning with real-world employer needs.

Read the full story in BizVoice.