ROI Annual Report to the Region: What’s Next for Education & Workforce Programs

Continued from – ROI Annual Report to the Region: State of Our Key Sectors

Todd Hurst, ROI’s Director of Education and Workforce, pulled the morning’s themes together in a report on ROI’s programming to build more robust and relevant talent pipelines. These pipelines are essential to ensure that Uplands employers can continue their record of innovation, that young people and the underemployed gain the necessary skills to capitalize on our region’s opportunities, and that communities flourish economically and culturally.

ROI’s efforts in talent development may be categorized in three broad categories: Experiential Learning and Career Awareness, STEM and Pathways, and Post-Secondary and Career Guidance.

Experiential Learning & Career Awareness

ROI’s experiential learning and career awareness programs help students understand the rich regional career opportunities and make informed choices about their pathways. ROI supports student learning by first supporting teacher learning. Experiential learning not only brings tools and resources about careers into the classroom, but leads educators out of the classroom to experience industry firsthand.

Educator Boot Camp began two years ago, in partnership with IU Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration. Since then, 87 educators from 15 school districts across the Uplands have engaged in a weeklong experience in regional employers’ facilities to learn about career opportunities for students. The Boot Camp has been an effective strategy for creating broader awareness of industry needs and expectations. This summer we will be offering our third Boot Camp.

Educators touring Cook Medical’s warehouse & distribution center.

Last December, school districts across our region participated in ROI’s survey of work-based learning programs. While nearly all districts offer options, only 10% of juniors and seniors were able to participate in the last school year. Logistical barriers to scaling programming include limited staffing, student schedule time, and employer partners. In some districts, work-based learning programs have evolved naturally because a passionate teacher has taken ownership of the process. Other districts have proactively created programs, staffed by school counselors, community partners, or internship coordinators.

Overcoming barriers and expanding access to work-based learning opportunities will require an intentional and collaborative approach across the region. To that end, ROI will create a regional network of internship coordinators across our K-12, post-secondary, and adult education providers so they may pool their knowledge, share resources, and distribute programming strategically among industry partners. On a state level, ROI is also working with Indiana InternNET on the potential for creating a region-specific portal to their internship matching service; supporting Conexus Indiana in expanding internship opportunities with our regional employers; and partnering with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce on a concerted approach to youth apprenticeships.

Further, to support our new job-shadowing videos, ROI is contracting with a regional expert in STEM curriculum development to create standards-based, grade-level lessons and activities to accompany each video. The first round of these plug-and-play curricular tools will be ready for Uplands teachers by fall of this year.

STEM and Pathways

ROI’s STEM and pathways programming recognizes that students form identities around their abilities at a very young age. STEM programming embeds making, real-world problem solving, and hands-on learning into education starting at the earliest levels. Later, students armed with marketable skills and information about postsecondary and career pathways are able to make informed decisions about their futures.

STEM Fellows are elementary educators, nominated by their school principal to participate in a year-long professional development experience that focuses on STEM content, pedagogy, and strategies for leading professional development. These practicing teachers believe in the value of STEM and have a passion for supporting other teachers in providing STEM experiences. To date, 32 elementary educators from 14 districts and ten counties, have agreed to serve as STEM leaders within their schools. Nominations for the third cohort closed May 3.

In addition to supporting STEM classroom education, ROI worked with all of the regional community foundations last year to create a grant opportunity for out-of-school STEM programs; the results so far are outstanding. Next steps for this initiative will be announced soon.

In addition to foundational STEM skills and attitudes, students also need a clear understanding of specific career opportunities and the educational pathways that lead to those opportunities. In 2017 ROI assembled a small group of school districts, post-secondary partners, and industry representatives to begin a conversation on what pathways exist in the region and what new pathways needed to be created. That work was largely put on hold until new graduation requirements and state policies were finalized.

In the fall of 2018 stakeholders met again, to better understand the state policies related to educational pathways, and to determine action steps moving forward. The group formed a consensus to focus on the development or reinforcement of four regional career pathways: automation and robotics, engineering, life sciences, and computer sciences. Since then, ROI has partnered with NextTech and IU to address computer science. Thirteen regional districts have begun the process of expanding their computer science offerings, beginning with a SCRIPTS training with Code.org.

Additionally, in March of 2019, ROI launched a grant opportunity called the Uplands Pathways Initiative. Seven school districts will be part of the first group working with ROI to develop K-12 regionally aligned educational pathways. These districts will receive a small grant toward stipends and substitute pay so that teachers can engage with industry partners outside of the classroom. In addition, these districts will receive technical assistance from ROI and our partners. The expected result is a fully developed pathway and a strategic plan for its implementation and sustainability.

Post-Secondary and Career Guidance

ROI’s college and career guidance programs currently support eight graduation and career coaches serving students across the region. These coaches help students navigate school and life obstacles while at the same time providing guidance on post-secondary and career options. Our partnership with Ivy Tech Bloomington has played a critical role in our efforts to assist the Uplands’ most at-risk populations.

Many other fantastic pathways initiatives are emerging, at the state and local level, among them Skillful. Skillful is not only redefining traditional hiring practices, but also supporting career coaches across the state through the Governor’s Coaching Corps and a state career coaching community of practice. Additionally, Indiana University’s Office of Enrollment Management has begun the process of launching a new College Advising Corps initiative. This program, similar to a Teach for America model, places recent graduates from IU Bloomington in school districts to help students explore a range of post-secondary options. ROI is excited to partner with IU on this initiative, and we anticipate several Corps member will be placed in our region.

Each of these programs has been designed and informed by the needs expressed by our industry and educational partners and of this region. Individually, they are making a difference, but as a system of initiatives working in concert, they have the capacity to change the way our educational institutions, communities, and employers work together. This is a key tenet of ROI’s work: to address challenges by engaging systems.

Finally, our Ready Schools initiative was designed to empower communities, school districts, and industry partners to develop strategies to ensure Uplands schools are prepared for and aligned to regional workforce needs and opportunities. The first six school districts to undertake this challenge have completed their planning process, and last summer we approved two million dollars in implementation grants to them.

The implementation proposals submitted by Cohort 1 were systemic, K-12 plans that focused on real-world engagement of students, professional growth and development for teachers, and regionally relevant and aligned coursework and pathways. We are pleased to see that their education and workforce advisory and design teams continue to work together, thus ensuring industry and community engagement and support moving forward.

This academic year we welcomed Cohort 2, which includes a unique collaboration of Mitchell, Orleans, and Shoals (three small districts in three separate counties); as well as Spencer-Owen, Bloomfield, and Monroe County Community Schools. These districts are currently entering the final phase of the design process and preparing possible strategies for their implementation proposals. (Applications for Ready Schools Cohort 3 close on May 31.)

In closing, Dr. Hurst noted that applications, deadlines, and information for all ROI grant and program opportunities are now easily accessible online through a grant portal. This new hub will be a valuable tool for Uplands organizations to learn more about ROI’s programmatic and funding opportunities.

Next: Governor Holcomb’s Next Level Jobs Initiative

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