WINONA LAKE — Area leaders gathered at the cafetorium of Lakeland Christian Academy to continue local discussions on strengthening bonds and partnerships between academia and industry.
In what was dubbed the Workforce Education Summit, held Tuesday morning, Nov. 27, key players from local schools and businesses met to discuss better ways to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s workplace.
Dr. Sue Ellspermann, president of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, served as the keynote speaker and emphasized that earning credits during education’s early stages should not be for naught.
Ellspermann said she is an advocate for “seamlessness, true seamlessness, that every student coming out of middle school, high school, on to what ever post-secondary looks like, that (seamlessness) is perfectly articulated.”
Ivy Tech’s top administrator said credit efficiency should be geared toward the ultimate goal — accepting a position in the workplace. “I mean, no undistributed college credit,” she said, “that it’s this perfect, smooth transition. It should all count and be aligned toward employers. I’ve challenged the governor to challenge our presidents of our colleges to get that efficiency, because to me it’s a travesty when somebody transfers from Ivy Tech to a four-year institution and they have 20-some credit hours of undistributed credit.”
During the summit, speakers also discussed such hot topics as what area schools are doing to prepare students for the workplace. Ronna Kawsky and Jill Jackson, representing the Warsaw Area Career Center as director and assistant director respectively, gave a presentation on that organization’s program called the Work Ethic Certificate. The certificate is designed to reward students who display the intangible skills that employers demand such as leadership, initiative and good attendance.
“This process of creating a work ethic certificate has been a big journey,” Kawsky said. “And, many of you are familiar faces because you’ve been on that journey with us.”
The event was moderated by Allyn Decker, vice chancellor of Ivy Tech’s Warsaw campus. Following Ellspermann’s keynote address, testimonies from local members of the workforce and the presentation from WACC, a panel discussion was held, featuring Ellspermann, as well as Brian Weibe from Horizon Education Alliance, Mark Melnick, executive director of Workforce Strategic Partnerships of Ivy Tech South Bend/Elkhart and Dr. David Hoffert, superintendent of Warsaw Community Schools.
Discussions such as the Workforce Education Summit address issues from more than one direction. For students preparing to continue their education, innovators in education strive to give those learners as much a leg up as possible while they prepare for the next level in the classroom. For students who may have their eye on turning their tassels in the high school gym and heading into the factory to begin a life in manufacturing, those employers want them to be as equally prepared.
“The Warsaw Area Career Center is the number one career center in the state of Indiana,” said Hoffert. “When you look at that, that takes a lot of partnerships. As I look around this room, I see so many people who are partners with our local school systems. It used to be that schools were isolated from the industry and now it has to be a partnership.”
Weibe said initiatives such as those discussed during the summit have deep roots locally.
“Indiana is a fabulous place to be doing this work,” he said. “The whole nation cares about this work, the whole planet cares, because it’s about talent. But, I think a lot of the innovation is going to be happening here.”