Initiative aims to align school districts to the education and workforce needs of Southwest Central Indiana
Regional Opportunity Initiatives (ROI) is pleased to announce that six Southwest Central Indiana school districts will comprise the inaugural cohort of the Ready Schools Initiative. The selected districts include Brown County Schools, Loogootee Community Schools, and a collaboration of the four school districts in Dubois County: Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools, Northwest Dubois County School Corporation, Southwest Dubois County School Corporation and Southeast Dubois County School Corporation.
The Ready School Initiative will provide up to $150,000 in funding to each grantee to support a year-long development process. Grantees will engage district, community, and industry stakeholders to better align educational programming with the workforce opportunities across the Southwest Central Indiana region.
“Our region is home to amazing cultural and economic assets; however, we continue to see a disconnect between the quality and quantity of talent and the workforce needs of our key industry sectors,” said Regional Opportunity Initiatives CEO Tina Peterson. “Workforce is clearly the Achilles heel for this region – the Ready Schools Initiative is a concerted effort, informed by industry and education, to begin addressing this issue. The initial cohort will engage in a purposeful year-long process to develop systemic, long-term strategies for pre-K through employment.”
In April, ROI released its first Occupational Needs Assessment to highlight the education and workforce needs of the advanced manufacturing, life sciences and national security and defense sectors in the greater Southwest Central Indiana region. The Assessment emphasizes that employers struggle to find talent for all levels of jobs; ranging from entry-level positions requiring only a high-school diploma to highly technical jobs requiring advanced degrees and training. All of the employers interviewed noted the significant role that the region’s K-12 districts play in addressing these workforce challenges.
“This region needs a pipeline of qualified employees that bring a diversity of experiences and educational attainment levels,” added Peterson. “Ready Schools will bring school districts, employers, and communities together to build an approach that helps students develop the skills they need to meet the demands and opportunities of today and tomorrow.”
The Ready Schools Initiative will support the funding of a District Readiness Coordinator in each school district who will guide a local Education and Workforce Advisory Team through a year-long design thinking process. The goal is to develop systemic solutions to local and regional education and workforce challenges. A series of workshops and experiences will be offered throughout the planning process to provide exploratory learning in the areas of career pathways, innovative K-12 approaches, curriculum, and models. Upon completion of the four phases, participants will have the opportunity to submit an implementation plan for additional funding. To be fundable, the plans must be aligned with workforce needs and opportunities, address sustainability, and be a collaborative partnership between school districts, community, and employers.
Director of Education and Workforce Todd Hurst indicated that five core principles will guide the cohort work through the Ready Schools process:
- Every student is engaged in a relevant path to success;
- Students graduate high school ready for post-secondary and career success;
- Meaningful and ongoing collaboration occurs among schools, industry, and community;
- Teaching and learning are grounded in relevancy; and
- Schools embrace the significant role they play in achieving regional prosperity.
“We’re thrilled with the overwhelming response we received from schools,” said Hurst. “ROI received 10 applications for the first cohort representing 15 Southwest Central Indiana school districts. It was evident that these districts are committed to supporting students and the long-term economic and community prosperity of Southwest Central Indiana. We are humbled to work with and for these exceptional communities and can’t wait to get started.”
About Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc.:
The mission of Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc. (ROI) is to support economic and community prosperity in the 11 counties of Southwest Central Indiana (Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties). ROI is implementing education and workforce initiatives and regional engagement initiatives for quality of place development. More information can be found at https://swcindiana.org/