Clothing Line Responds to Request for Girls’ Science-Themed T-Shirts

I can already tell that my nearly three-year-old daughter is going to have a proclivity for math and science. She has spatial reasoning for a toddler that I’ve never seen before and loves everything earth and science-based, including digging in the garden with me, learning about astronomy and “dinosnores” as she calls them (quite adorably).

She also loves playing with dolls and Cinderella is one of her favorite movies – sometimes she dresses up as a butterfly or princess and sings and dances around the house. At this age, she’s all about exploring the whole world around her – not just one tiny pink or purple sliver of it.

While a walk down the “girl” toy aisle might tell you differently, there are retailers that are catching on that girls have greater interests than just dolls and cute puppies and sequins. Science, math, Paleontology, sports and realistic-looking animals are not only for boys.

One retailer, Lands’ End, in response to a letter posted to its Facebook page (that went viral very quickly) by a mom concerned that she and her nine-year-old daughter, who loves science and astronomy, could not find science-themed graphic t-shirts in the girls’ section of the Lands’ End catalog – just the boys’ section – has taken steps to rectify the situation.

The company’s new line of science-themed t-shirts for girls launched on July 30. Posted on its Facebook page, the company notes that pre-orders are being taken and based on the response to the shirts, the company will continue to add new styles.

In response, the Lands’ End Facebook community has continued to ask for more gender-breaking apparel.

One Facebook fan writes, “Can we please also get ‘boy’ shirts with some more variety of colors (how about a purple?), and animals other than dangerous animals with teeth? And please take gender labels off of things like backpacks & lunchboxes that don’t have a different fit.”

Another writes, “Do these come in adult size? I’m a female astronomy teacher! I want one!”

This isn’t the first time a clothing retailer has been taken to task for its biased clothing line. Last year, I wrote about a t-shirt featured by The Children’s Place that alluded to young ladies that math was less important than (and they weren’t as good at it as) shopping, music and dancing. That shirt was quickly removed from store shelves and online.

Especially in an age where STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs are plentiful, necessary and well-paying, there is still a disparity in the number of women and minorities employed in those fields – though the gap is smaller than it has been in the past, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project. The program has a number of statistics on its web site that point to the disproportion of women and minorities in the STEM fields.

While the next generation of STEM workers probably doesn’t hinge on a t-shirt design (or lack thereof), it’s important to continue the drumbeat that girls are good at math and science and can get those well-paying STEM jobs that are so necessary for the future success of America.

The Importance of Remembering Our Goals

I can remember clearly the day that I sat down with my academic advisor at Hanover College and filled out the form that would officially brand me an English major. I was a sophomore, and I felt as if I had been waiting since the day I committed to Hanover to wear the English major label. I was eager to take the literary classes and the writing workshops, all preparing me to follow my dream of becoming a writer. At that moment, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to write, but I was certain writing would play a major role in my future.

Writing has always been my passion and my dream. As my senior year continues to inch closer, I know that it’s almost time to try to make my dream a reality, which is both exciting and terrifying. I also realize that working toward my bigger career goals will take time.

I recently stumbled upon an article from Mashable entitled, “How to Reclaim Your Goals When the Path to Success Gets Foggy.” The article is targeted at those already in the workforce who may have lost sight of their goals, distracted by the day-to-day tasks of their job. While I may not be the intended reader for this piece, I think it’s important to keep in mind as I embark on my job search in the near future. And I think it’s important for everyone to remember their dreams and goals and to not give up even when the path gets obscured.

The main advice in the article is simply to remember your career goals and to invest time in them. It’s easy to cast your bigger dreams aside, promising that it is a task to be dealt with on another day. But it’s important to devote time to your goals, because it will take time to accomplish them.

Another issue that could present a roadblock is fear. This could include fear of success, fear of failure or fear of what people will think of you. These fears must be cast aside if you’re to follow your dreams.

Though the article presents advice that sounds familiar and even trite, I think it’s important to remind ourselves of all these things and to make sure that we aren’t forgetting about the dreams that probably led us to our jobs in the first place.

Anti-Bullying App Gets Microloan Boost

The current edition of BizVoice® magazine includes a story about the Madison County Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA), an after-school program for students in grades six to 12 that helps students learn how to brainstorm ideas for companies, present those companies to an investor panel and secure funding for their ideas.

As part of the YEA program, Pendleton Heights High School junior Brandon Boynton created an anti-bullying app called The Bully Box, which is marketed to schools and allows students to report acts of bullying anonymously, while allowing the school district to collect bullying data to help comply with anti-bullying laws and protect students.

Boynton’s app won the local contest held through the Madison County YEA program, as well as the regional contest in Boca Raton, Florida. He placed in the top six of a national competition at America’s Small Business Summit in Washington D.C. in June.

According to a press release from the Flagship Microloan Program, the app has also caught the attention of the microloan organization, which provides small loans of between $1,000 and $5,000 to businesses in a 10-county region of East Central Indiana. The program announced it will make a working capital loan to Most Beastly Studios, which produces The Bully Box app. The Flagship Enterprise Center, a technology incubator in Anderson, is a sponsor of the Madison County YEA program and is a partnership between the City of Anderson and Anderson University.

To raise additional capital for the app, Boynton is running a campaign via crowdfunding site IndieGoGo. His goal is to raise $25,000 by Sept. 24.

Also in Boynton’s toolbox is The Curfew Buddy – keeping parents and children connected quickly about where children are and when they’ll return home.

Kudos to this young Hoosier entrepreneur and the Madison County YEA program for giving Boynton and other enterprising students the experience and opportunity to change the world through their innovative products, services and ideas.

Life is Like a Team Sport

I admittedly have little knowledge about the game of soccer. I participated in a league for elementary students for a few years, but my experience mainly consisted of talking to teammates on the sidelines and partaking of the snacks before going home. I’m not even sure my foot ever made contact with the ball during a match.

In light of the recent World Cup matches, I came across an article posing the question: Is life more like baseball or soccer? The conclusion was that life mimics the team-oriented sport of soccer rather than the more-individualistic baseball. And while baseball is another sport that evades my complete comprehension, I found the argument compelling.

At Hanover College, where I’ll be a senior in the fall, we’re assigned to at least one group project in each of our business classes. During the first business class I took in college (and many of the subsequent ones I’ve completed), I received a speech on the team-oriented nature of business. Those of us who preferred individual work would have to adjust, because the success of an organization hinges on the collaboration of the individuals working within it.

The article is interesting because it asserts that even decisions we would consider purely personal—such as what career path to take, whom to socialize with and what values to hold—are actually influenced by the people around us, which makes sense. Our norms are determined by those we’re surrounded by.

Now, considering my lack of sports’ knowledge, I can’t truly comment on the soccer versus baseball argument, nor on Brazil’s loss to Germany (which seems to have inspired the article), but I appreciated the perspective on the team aspect of life and how influential our networks are. I think it’s something important to keep in mind, whether at work, school or simply with friends. Who we surround ourselves with and who we work with can play a major role in our lives.

Accountabilty Panel Continues to Work; Core 40 Panel Getting Started

Nearly a year has passed since the media storm surrounding Indiana’s school accountability measures and the decision by state leaders to appoint a panel to develop new accountability metrics. Unfortunately, despite 10 day-long meetings, the panel remains far from completing its work.

The Indiana Chamber’s Derek Redelman serves on the panel and reports that he and several other panelists have been frustrated by the lack of support. For example, despite being told at the panel’s first meeting last fall that both the Department of Education and the Legislative Services Agency would have data sets to separately test any ideas that the panel developed, they were not informed until the fourth meeting of the panel that neither agency actually had the promised data. Similarly, despite member requests at the very first meeting to engage national experts to help with this work, the first opportunity for the panel to meet with any experts did not occur until the panel’s eighth meeting – more than six months into their work.

The panel made some limited progress at its latest meeting on June 26, but significant issues – like the preferred method for measuring student growth; the main reason for the panel’s formation – remain far from decided. In the meantime, the timeline for completing this work is quickly approaching, so the panel will meet again on July 8.

Meanwhile, a new task force – this one charged with a review of Indiana’s Core 40 diploma requirements – began meeting on June 11. The panel was originally formed in response to legislation mandating the development of a new CTE (career and technical education) diploma that would have created Indiana’s fifth and least rigorous diploma option. The Chamber opposed that mandate and joined with the governor’s office, the Commission for Higher Education and the Department of Education to kill the proposal, while agreeing instead to review our current diploma options.

The new task force is co-chaired by Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education, and Glenda Ritz, state superintendent of public instruction. It also includes representatives from K-12 education, career and technical education, higher education, and the business community – including the Chamber’s Derek Redelman.

Three questions appear likely to be the focus: 1) How can the diploma options provide an attractive and effective pathway for career and technical education students; 2) How can Algebra II (and/or other math requirements) be structured to effectively serve all college and career options; and 3) How should the diploma options be adjusted in response to rising remediation rates for college-bound students?

The next meeting of the task force is scheduled for July 24; recommendations are expected next summer.

Chamber Survey: Nearly 40% of Employers Left Jobs Unfilled Due to Under-Qualified Applicants

Jobs are there, but the employability of some Hoosiers isn’t matching what’s available says a new statewide survey by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Of the 532 participating employers, 39% (202) said they recently have left jobs unfilled due to unqualified applicants.

“That number is way too high and speaks to the work that policymakers, educators and employers still have to do. And also what individuals often need to do to make themselves more marketable for the type of employment they desire,” asserts Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “Collectively, we need to do better at connecting the dots regarding the open jobs and the qualifications it takes to land one of them.”

The survey, in its seventh year, asked employers about their recruiting practices, training and continuing education offerings and skills needs in their workforce. More than 40% of the survey participants had under 50 employees and just over one-third represents manufacturing or advanced manufacturing industries.

In response to what education level is required for their unfilled jobs, two-thirds (67%) indicated beyond a high school degree, with 38% saying middle skills (certificates, certification or associate’s degree) and 29% a bachelor’s degree or higher. The most often cited occupations in need of good applicants were those in the skilled trades (such as an electrician or plumber) and engineering (from technician to design).

What makes getting the right talent pool mix all the more critical, Brinegar notes, is that 96% of the respondents said they expected the size of their workforce to increase or stay the same over the next 1-2 years. The majority – at 57% – are actually looking to add more employees during that time.

On a related topic, more than 70% of respondents (72%) said that filling their workforce was challenging, with nearly 20% labeling it the single biggest challenge they faced. “So even those that are able to find people for their open positions are having to spend more time on it than they would like, and more time away from the company’s direct mission,” Brinegar offers.

When it came to identifying what skills are the most difficult to find among applicants and new hires, several “soft skills” that are traditionally not assessed in an education setting were at the top.

Work ethic was the most lacking at 55%. Communication, problem solving and attendance/punctuality each registered 42-43%. Each of these soft skills was indicated as far more challenging to find than academic skills, such as reading, writing and math. Only 10% of the respondents said they had no challenges finding the skills they needed.

Derek Redelman, the Indiana Chamber’s vice president of education and workforce policy, emphasizes that “employers have tried to help themselves and their workers by offering tuition reimbursement, but not enough are taking advantage of the opportunity.”

Case in point: Over half of employers surveyed (242 of 447) reported having tuition reimbursement programs. Yet, 64% of those respondents (156 of 242) stated the programs were seldom used by their employees and 5% said they were never used. Only 31% of employers reported that their tuition reimbursement programs were used frequently.

“Hoosier employers are frustrated by the skills of available workers,” Redelman declares. “They are willing to invest time and resources to address those challenges, but what’s too often missing is the willingness of workers and applicants to pursue the training and skills that employers value.”

Employers surveyed also expressed interest in working with the education community to a greater extent. Two-thirds of respondents (67% of 458) said they felt businesses should be more involved in reviewing high school diploma and college degree requirements. And 90% felt employers should be more involved in the design of career and technical education (CTE) programs to make sure they were on target. Over half of employers (56% of 458) reported that they are currently involved with local schools, including internships (35%), classroom presentations (18%), job shadowing (16%) and more.

Consistent with last year’s results, over two-thirds of employers (72% of 508) said they were getting little to no support from Indiana’s workforce development system: Some 36% reported knowing about WorkOne but never having had any contact; 25% accessed the system but were not finding the services helpful; and 11% had no knowledge of these services. Only 19% of employers reported success in hiring applicants using WorkOne recruiters or the Indiana Career Connect job matching system.

“Given the continuing needs of employers and the persistent number of unemployed adults, these responses point to the critical importance of the Governor’s focus on these issues and, specifically, the development of a strategic plan through the Indiana Career Council and local employer engagement through the Works Councils,” Redelman concludes.

According to Brinegar, the results of this employer survey will also guide how the Indiana Chamber concentrates its efforts to achieve several goals under the organization’s long-term economic development plan, Indiana Vision 2025.

Among those goals: increase to 60% the proportion of Indiana residents with high quality postsecondary credentials, especially in the STEM-related fields (of science, technology, math and engineering); see a notable increase in Hoosiers having bachelor’s degrees or higher; and develop, implement and fully fund a comprehensive plan for addressing the skills shortages of adult and incumbent workers who lack minimum basic skills.

View the survey results and executive summary at www.indianachamber.com/education.

Timeless Tips: I’ll Never Outgrow This Advice for College Grads

It was May 2000, I was graduating from college and I was scared to death about the future.

That period in my life was the best of times and the worst of times, as they say.

While an exciting new chapter was ahead, a painful one was underway. My dad recently had been diagnosed with cancer. There was a chance he wouldn’t be able to attend my graduation ceremony – the person who, along with my mom, had encouraged and supported me every step of the way. They cultivated from childhood a passion for learning.

Just when I thought there would be an empty chair in the crowd when I accepted my diploma, things started to look up.

My dad, weak from chemotherapy and radiation but beaming with pride, watched me graduate after all. And the following month, a phone call I made to the Indiana Chamber would change my life forever.

I inquired if there were open positions. There was one. And on June 26, I began my 14-year journey.

What a ride! I’ve honed my craft. I’ve learned from peers about the business world and – equally as important – about friendship. Beyond these doors, I’ve relished my role as a mentor to my nephews and niece as they’ve grown and now to my children.

So when I read an article today titled Five Mistakes College Grads Make When Starting Careers, it inspired me. I didn’t expect it to. After all, it was written to guide workforce rookies. But this veteran gleaned wisdom from each tip.

Do you tend to stay in your comfort zone? Do you always follow the rules? Are you intimidated by senior management? Don’t be, says the author. His anecdotes add a personal touch.

I for one will try to stop worrying so much about failing (mistake No. 5) whether it’s at work or at home (you never know, I could be the next Master Chef). It’s never too late to put fear in its place.

July/August BizVoice Building a Buzz

Today, we’re unveiling our July/August edition of BizVoice magazine.

And the headline is actually a joking nod to our cover story about drones… assuming they make some sort of buzzing sound as they fly. If they don’t, well, let’s just ignore it and move on.

This issue covers a gamut of topics. Here are a few of the top stories (but you can view the full edition via our interactive online version):

Internships: A Taste of the ‘Real World’

I’ve now been interning at the Indiana Chamber for four weeks. I’ve settled in, evidenced by the papers strewn across my desk, the calendar tacked to my cubicle marked with deadlines and meetings and the way I’ve found my daily routine when I’m at work. I can now even wake up at 6 a.m. (which I confess was an adjustment after my second-semester schedule of afternoon classes) without the same amount of incredulity that people do in fact do this every day.

Then again, that’s kind of the point of an internship. It’s answering that big question: Can I do this every day? Or, even better: Can I do this every day and be happy? It’s glimpsing the infamous “real world” and finding what you could wake up at 6 a.m. every day for.

This is my second internship, and though the nature of the work I’m doing here is very similar to what I did previously, I’ve realized that work environment is a significant factor for me — and probably most other people, as well. I’ve genuinely enjoyed being at the Chamber this past month and getting to know and learning from the great people in my department.

And I’ve learned a substantial amount already. I appreciate all of the constructive criticism and feedback I’ve received, and I know that it will be valuable to me in any career path that I choose after graduation.

I know that I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to do internships before I graduate next spring. Not only am I gaining practical experience, but I’m discovering different factors that I want in a future job. Additionally, I’m getting the chance to test my compatibility with a career field I’m interested in.

I think that’s what is so beneficial about internships. As someone who has previously struggled to lay out a clear post-graduation plan (except, of course, working hard to find a job of some sort), my internships have helped show me a viable option to pursue, one where I could come to work every day and derive a sense of accomplishment from what I’m doing. But had I not done any internships, I’m certain I would be feeling pretty lost standing on the cusp of my senior year.

All of that being said, I’m not yet halfway through this internship, and I’m excited for the experiences and learning that await.

Velodrome/Indy Cycloplex a ‘Major’ Asset for Central Indiana

The soon-to-released July/August BizVoice will feature a series of stories on cycling in Indiana. One piece will feature an interview with Dean Peterson, head coach of Marian University’s dominant college cycling program (which now boasts 26 national championships).

In addition to the hard work of Peterson and his staff, one asset the team has parlayed into a big advantage is the Indy Cycloplex and Major Taylor Velodrome. Visible to those driving on I-65 on the city’s north side, the bike park is operated by Peterson and the school to serve the public. He explains:

The Velodrome is a unique asset for a school, and three years ago, Marian entered into an agreement with the city to manage the Indy Cycloplex park (over 40 acres). We wanted to retool and revitalize the park and invite the community in a little more – and maybe re-energize to a new level. The city recognized it was hard for them to do that with the money they had, but they looked at us because we could be more autonomous in how we could raise money and be more creative in our operations.

It’s certainly a great synergy and it helps us recruit – and the community gets to come in and race and ride with our riders. We do run this as a city park in a unique setting.

There’s very few Velodromes in the country with the amenities we have here. It was built for the International Sports Festival and the Pan Am Games, and this is an amazing set-up with bathrooms and fountains and places to change. Usually tracks are out in the middle of nowhere. But it is expensive to keep it all going. But I think we were the right people to take it over and have been very happy with our partnership with the city.

He adds that developing the BMX track has been a benefit, as well as a challenge.

That’s been a challenge financially, but we’ve learned a lot and that has more capacity to generate income while making a lot of young riders happy and generate great cyclists. They learn skills there that are very hard to teach anywhere else.

Furthermore, Peterson says the school strives to communicate the history surrounding the Velodrome’s namesake, Major Taylor, as well. For more on this champion cyclist who overcame racial prejudice, visit the Major Taylor Association’s web page.