The initial meeting of the Region 2 Indiana Works Council kicked off at the Warsaw City Hall today to discuss local workforce and career education improvements. The works council, proposed by Governor Mike Pence and unanimously passed by the legislature, is charged with evaluating existing technical and career educational programs for high school students and their integration into meeting local workforce needs.
“This area offers many employment opportunities in advanced manufacturing, with the medical device industry and RV manufacturing,” said Jackie Dowd, special assistant for workforce innovation to Pence. “Your discussions can recognize successful programs and pathways, and determine more effective integrations and innovations that may be created.”
Council members include local school corporations, career centers, employers, secondary educational institutions and the Department of Education outreach coordinators. Brad Bishop, executive director of Orthoworx and chair of the Region 2 council, noted the importance of retaining jobs and retaining quality employees for the area.
“Our charge is to identify and synchronize the best programs, and look toward additional innovations and anticipating business needs,” said Bishop. “I’m confident we can fulfill our legislative charge and bring more ideas to the table.”
Important topics — cited by both educators and industry – included issues with soft skills, tech skills, addressing the “relevance” of school and working to inspire hope among students, in addition to a review of existing career education and technology programs. Council members also pointed to lack of knowledge of students regarding career opportunities, and presenting a reality of existing local market jobs.
“As a teacher, and then administrator, I saw a lot of kids coming home in debt from college, no degree and no job,“ said Daniel Tyree, superintendent of Plymouth schools. “In working with the Marshall County Industrial Association, I started talking to plant managers and learned lots of soft skills aren’t being taught at home so schools need to do just that. We need to have a focus on creating an opportunity for jobs after schools, so we’ve added Project Lead the Way and introduced project-based learning available at every level to benefit all our students.”
Additional ideas including offering facility/office tours to students and greater integration efforts with local businesses. Plymouth has added tours of advanced manufacturing companies to teacher professional development options to demonstrate work environment to better understand business needs and student opportunities. Misconceptions of real work environments, technical skills necessary, and basic educational courses necessary for support were all cited as examples of information gaps among students and some teachers.
“We need skills sets to build a quality product and to reach this new generation of workers,” said Amy Ebert, a human resources representative from Jayco. “We’re all competing for the same people, but they want the job to fit into the life they want to live. Our generation wanted a balance between the two — that’s a significant difference — especially with the necessary skills employers are looking for.”
The council’s next meeting will be from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, Oct. 18, at the Warsaw City Hall. On Oct. 28, they will meet at the Elkhart Area Career Center. Future meeting sites will include tours of local businesses, career centers and school corporations.