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.

Throwback Thursday: Purdue’s Long History of Agricultural Contributions

While digging into the fertile soil of our archive room, staff has discovered an Indiana Chamber report from August 1945 titled, “Aids Behind the Farm: A Directory of Functional Analysis of Governmental and Civic Organizations in the Field of Farming.” (Yes, the title is certainly a mouthful – potentially equaling a bushel of vegetables from a Hoosier farm.)

The booklet includes features on major farm-related organizations in Indiana – and the nation – like the Indiana Farm Bureau, The Grange, the National Farmers Union and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. One such prominent organization highlighted is Purdue University. The 1945 entry about the school reveals its history and mission, and why it’s such a benefit to the agricultural industry:

In 1869 the Indiana General Assembly took steps to establish an institution of learning and it received $340,000 from the Federal government which sum is held in trust by the state at interest. In 1869 the General Assembly accepted from John Purdue, a philanthropic businessman of Lafayette, and other public spirited citizens of Tippecanoe County, the sum of $200,000 and a tract of 100 acres of land. It also voted to name the institution ‘Purdue University.’

In 1879 the College of Agriculture was founded. Prior to 1900, few students attended the college and intensive efforts had to be made to acquaint farmers with the value of agricultural training. The first short course in agriculture was held in the winter of 1887-1888. These intensive winter short courses are still permitting hundreds of farmers to attain further knowledge of profitable agricultural practices.

Even then, Purdue’s county extensions played a major role in building the state’s agricultural climate. (The school has an extension in all 92 Indiana counties.):

An integral part of the work of the Extension Department is carried on through the efforts of more than 30,000 volunteer local and neighborhood leaders. County Extension Committees, organized in each county, are composed of local people who know the immediate needs of the county and who help to plan the extension program of their counties to meet the local problems. These people help to bring to Indiana farmers the information and facts which they need to meet their particular problems speedily and proficiently, and to advise returning veterans interested in farming.

In 4-H Club work, more than 3,600 young men and women serve as junior leaders and 2,200 parents and other adults serve as volunteer local leaders.

Opportunity Ahead: A Summer at the Indiana Chamber

About three years ago, I made the decision to attend Hanover College—which is a little under five hours’ driving distance from my hometown of Mishawaka on a good day—where I will be a senior next year. I have again temporarily relocated from home to be in Indianapolis this summer for a communications internship with the Indiana Chamber.

Upon arriving home after completing the first day of my internship at the Chamber, my immediate task was to call my dad and relay to him the details of my initial experiences. As anticipated, he was overjoyed to learn that I considered the day to be a success and was looking forward to the days to come. He then predictably delivered a well-intentioned lecture, advising me to make the most out of this opportunity.

My dad (manager of a family-owned company based in Elkhart, Indiana) was the one who encouraged me to join my college’s business program to supplement my English major. To my surprise, I’ve largely enjoyed my business courses as much as or even more than many of my literature-based English classes. I have quickly realized that my two interests—writing and business—can create a happy union.

My summer internship here at the Chamber is a perfect example of the potential marriage of my interests. I’m excited to learn more about business while utilizing and improving my writing skills. As a college student planning on remaining and working in Indiana post-graduation next year, I look forward to learning about business in Indiana in particular. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to inform my business-savvy dad about a thing or two that he isn’t already aware of.

A ‘Goliath’ Example of an Exciting Engineering Career

Think engineering jobs are mundane? Think again!

Check out this Chicago Tribune story about Goliath, the new roller coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Ill., set to open this Saturday. It will set three records for wooden roller coasters, and it will be the steepest and fastest wooden coaster in the world.

The road to construction of this roller coaster involved engineering innovation. The article details the work of the engineers, bringing this structure to life.