Boot camp allows educators to explore work environments in advanced manufacturing, life sciences and defense industries

Externship program gives teachers opportunity to learn about careers in Southwest Central Indiana’s key industry sectors.

Teachers observe production at Cook Polymer Technology in Bloomington, IN.

Fifty-four educators from eight Southwest Central Indiana counties participated in a week-long Educator Boot Camp in June. Educators experienced work environments on site at regional industry employers in the advanced manufacturing, life sciences and national security and defense sectors. Participating educators each spent time in up to three host companies learning about the skills and education needed to thrive at different employment levels.

Educators worked alongside industry employees learning about safety, quality assurance, lean manufacturing, rules/regulations, creative problem solving, soft skills, workforce needs and educational attainment necessary for employment and career advancement.

Educators at Boston Scientific use LEGO® sets to learn about lean manufacturing techniques that are used at the company’s Bloomington, IN, facility. Lean manufacturing is characterized by eliminating waste within a production system without sacrificing productivity to improve operations and overall customer value.

“The experience was an intense immersion that allowed educators to experience local job opportunities for students of all education levels,” said Lisa Eldridge, fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Spencer Elementary School (Spencer, IN).

“It is a valuable experience for teachers to understand their own role in the economic development of our region,” added Kara Pickens, West Washington Jr/Sr. High School (Campbellsburg, IN).

Jake Anderson from Jasper Engines and Transmissions’ English, IN, facility explains how engines and parts are sorted and cleaned for remanufacturing.

Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc., the Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration in the School of Education at Indiana University, DirectEmployers Institute and WorkOne partnered to create the Southwest Central Indiana Educator Boot Camp externship program.

“This Educator Boot Camp program was modeled after similar programs in Indiana,” said ROI Director of Education and Workforce Todd Hurst. “The goal of this program is to foster more active and positive relationships between school systems and relevant local industry.

“We were thrilled with the overwhelming interest we had for this Boot Camp from educators as well as industry partners,” added Hurst. “Participants came from all levels of education, from elementary school through adult education, including guidance counselors, school principals and administrators. Our industry partners represented small, midsize and large companies with diverse employment needs across our entire region.”

Teachers take a tour at Metal Technologies in Bloomfield, IN, to learn about the company’s metal fabrication and production machining capabilities. Metal Technologies provides production support for many automotive companies, including GM, Chrysler and Ford.

The 18 Educator Boot Camp industry partners included:

  • Bedford Ford (Bedford, IN)
  • Bedford Machine & Tool Inc. (Bedford, IN)
  • Boston Scientific (Bloomington, IN)
  • CAP Group (Bedford, IN)
  • Cook Medical (Bloomington, IN)
  • Cook Pharmica (Bloomington, IN)
  • Cook Polymer (Bloomington, IN)
  • East Gate Business & Technology Center (Bedford, IN)
  • Hoosier Hills Credit Union (Bedford, IN)
  • In Fab, Inc. (Bedford, IN)
  • Jasper Engines & Transmissions (English, IN)
  • McKean Defense Group (Odon, IN)
  • Metal Technologies (Bloomfield, IN)
  • Naval Surface Warfare Center – Crane Division (Crane, IN)
  • PRD Inc. (Springville, IN)
  • Singota Solutions (Bloomington, IN)
  • TASUS Corporation (Bloomington, IN)
  • Technology Service Corporation (Bloomington, IN)
Teachers and educators from across Southwest Central Indiana toured Naval Surface Warfare Center – Crane Division to learn about federal employment career opportunities on the base, including technicians, analysts and specialists, advanced engineers and scientists as well as jobs through government contractors.

“The Educator Boot Camp provided an outstanding avenue to communicate with the educators that are helping shape our future workforce pipeline,” said Angie Mann, Engagement and Community Outreach Liasion at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division. “NSWC Crane views our participation in the Boot Camp as an investment in our future. The educators can now take the important information they learned back into their communities to share not only with their students but also parents, co-workers, community leaders and many others. They can share information about our technical and non-technical career fields and provide specific examples of how our employees play a vital role each and every day in solving the toughest technical problems for our warfighters.”

This initiative will increase our long-term ability to accomplish our assigned mission and a shared goal to ensure a readily available and relevant workforce pipeline within the Region.”

“It was a pleasure to host the teachers through the ROI Boot Camp,” said Kristy Fallon, Director of Human Resources at Cook Pharmica. “We are hoping that this starts a long-term relationship between education and Cook Pharmica to create connections with students on jobs available in their own backyard. The session created greater understanding of how industry can partner with our local educators, and we look forward to hosting more sessions like this in the future.”

Boot Camp participants share strategic plans for how they plan to collaborate to develop student career readiness skills and inform students and parents of regional job opportunities.

Educators that participated in the Boot Camp reconvened at the end of the week to discuss curricula and programs they can use to prepare students for jobs in Southwest Central Indiana’s key industry sectors. They also developed plans for how to better inform students, parents, and community members of available career opportunities that exist near them.

“The most impactful part of the Educator Boot Camp was gaining a deeper understanding of the regional industry in this area, and hearing first hand from professionals in the field regarding skill development that I can support in the classroom,” said Meighan Scott, sixth-grade teacher at University Elementary School in Bloomington, IN. “I didn’t realize both the range of industry in Southwest Central Indiana, as well as the range of employees needed. I gained a much deeper understanding of how much I can do, even at the elementary level, to help develop the soft skills my students need for success in the workplace.”

“Learning the crucial role of soft skills was the biggest thing I took away from the Boot Camp, said Vicki Conrad, adult educator with WorkOne (Paoli, IN).  “I knew there were issues with young peoples’ writing abilities; they write like they are texting, but I didn’t realize how face-to-face skills are slipping as well. The age of technology has been good but has hindered these important skills. It will be something we include in our adult education class from this point forward.”

“Employers are desperate for qualified talent to sustain and grow Southwest Central Indiana’s key industry sectors of life sciences, defense and advanced manufacturing,” said ROI CEO Tina Peterson. “Programs like the Boot Camp help to increase educator awareness of the types of careers available regionally, and enable schools to improve career readiness in their students. We look forward to assisting educators and sector employers to further develop programs and relationships in the coming years to fulfill our region’s workforce needs.”

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 initiatives for quality of place development. More information can be found at

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