The Big Goal

In Northeast Indiana, we are relentless in our pursuit of progress. Our gritty determination allows us to transform difficulties into opportunities for growth, and that creates positive change. That’s good for our community. That’s good for your business. That’s why we have the Big Goal. 

Increasing educational attainment. That’s what the Big Goal is all about.

The Big Goal aims to increase the percentage of Northeast Indiana residents with high-quality degrees or credentials to 60 percent by 2025.

Research shows that more than 60 percent of jobs will soon require post-secondary education in the form of a two- or four-year degree or credential. Currently, just 38 percent of Northeast Indiana’s workforce has a labor market–valued degree or credential.

We know that to become a global competitor and transform our economy, Northeast Indiana’s business and community leaders must work together to reach the Big Goal.

Our region must have an educated workforce with the skills needed by our employers. The Big Goal is about education, yes, but it’s also about supporting our regional employers and helping your business prepare for the future. 

Why 60 Percent?

Increasing educational attainment has the potential make a positive impact on the community by:

  • Increasing wages
  • Raising overall economic wealth
  • Meeting the needs of existing businesses
  • Enabling businesses to grow
  • Creating more jobs

How will that these be accomplished?  We are focusing on education as a lifelong progression—from cradle to career. By approaching education as a continuum, we ensure that all stages are being addressed and that success can be monitored at all levels.

We Make Progress Happen

We believe no one organization can transform the region’s economy. It must be a collective effort.

The Big Goal Collaborative is a group of regional educators, community partners, businesspeople, civic leaders, and other people passionate about educational attainment. 

We are turning ideas into action, thanks to our regional partners.

From meetings and workshops to conferences and community programming, these volunteers are giving their time to create innovative, systemwide change in education in Northeast Indiana.

They are led by the Educational Leadership Council (ELC), which serves as the leadership body for the Big Goal by providing regional oversight and strategic direction, facilitating dialogue, contributing financial and/or social capital, and acting as a champion and resource for the entire cradle-to-career continuum.

Our cradle-to-career action teams

  • Early childhood learning
  • K–8
  • High school completion
  • Technical education (EWIN)
  • Postsecondary completion

Want to see what’s happening at each point in Northeast Indiana's cradle-to-career continuum? See what our action teams have done so far.

There’s room for more community partners, too. Contact our team to get involved. 

  1. Northeast Indiana’s Regional Internship Program and Survey

    November 23, 2016

    Supplying employers with people who possess the right skills and experience is becoming increasingly challenging regionally, especially as the unemployment rate drops and the workforce ages. The unemployment rate in many counties has dipped below 4 percent, which is considered full employment. Moreover, across all industries, more than 20 percent of the workforce is now at or near retirement age. In the next decade, Northeast Indiana will need to hire tens of thousands more workers. The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Northeast Indiana Works and the Community Research Institute at IPFW have partnered to create and distribute a Northeast Indiana Skills and Internships Survey. The results of this survey will help Northeast Indiana promote and support initiatives that meet the workforce needs of regional employers through talent development and attraction strategies. In November, the Big Goal Collaborative also focused on developing Northeast Indiana’s Regional Internship Program. The team hosted nearly 10 workshops with regional employers throughout Northeast Indiana’s 11 counties. So far, the program has reached almost 100 people from regional employers and organizations.

  2. 2016 Snapshot on Education Released

    October 18, 2016

    The Big Goal Collaborative also released the 2016 Snapshot on Education. Thanks to the progressive work of regional leaders throughout Northeast Indiana, many key indicators tracked by the Big Goal demonstrated region-wide improvements. Specifically, the region has seen improvements in high-quality early learning enrollment, which increased by 1 percent and high school graduation rates, which increased by .7 percent. The Snapshot also found a 4.9 percent increase in post-secondary persistence. The third annual Snapshot of Education featured information from 31 school districts, five technical education centers, seven post-secondary institutions and other public sources. The report included baseline numbers for key indicators tracked by action teams working on kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading and others. Read more about the release of the Snapshot.

  3. Big Goal Hosts Regional Education Summit

    October 18, 2016

    In October, the Big Goal Collaborative hosted the 2016 Big Goal Education Summit. More than 130 Northeast Indiana leaders in education, business and nonprofit gathered to hear a presentation on the “Thriving Communities, Thriving State” recommendations surrounding education and workforce development. Attendees also came up with strategies surrounding three themes: access to education, the completion of post-secondary opportunities in the region and the retention of that talent in the region. After the Summit, many of the participants joined a meeting with regional County and Career Success Coalitions and Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Theresa Lubbers.

  4. Snapshot and Summit Planned

    October 3, 2016

    The Big Goal Collaborative (BGC) developed the 2016 Snapshot on Education, which will be released at the Big Goal Education Summit from 8 a.m. to noon on October 18 at Sweetwater Sound, 5501 U.S. 30, Fort Wayne. In addition, the high school action team strategized for the upcoming FAFSA season opening on October 1. The Big Goal also secured Tom Lane, a retired educator and lobbyist for the Iowa Area Education Agency, to speak at the Regional Opportunities Council (ROC) meeting in October and discussed lessons learned when Iowa created a voluntary, statewide pre-k program.

  5. Strengths Coaching Network Collaborated with New Tech Schools

    October 3, 2016

    Amy Hesting and Sonya Snellenberger met with strengths coaches at Lakeland High School, DeKalb Central, Viking New Tech and Eagle Tech to assess the use of strengths in each school and discuss opportunities for collaboration with regional businesses. For more information about StrengthsFinder and the Northeast Indiana Strengths Network, read our recent blog series or contact Amy Hesting.

  6. Big Goal Received Lilly Grant

    August 23, 2016

    The College to Career (CoCAT) Action Team collected data related to employer engagement and refined its measures. Each of the eligible higher education institutions in the group received a grant from the Lilly Endowment to assist with aligning programs with employer needs. The Big Goal Collaborative also received a grant from the Lilly Endowment to convene the group and support efforts to retain talent in Northeast Indiana.

  7. EWIN Action Team Focused on Potential Projects

    August 23, 2016

    The Education/Workforce Innovation Network (EWIN) Action Team identified, refined, and prioritized its list of potential projects.

  8. Education Summit Planned

    July 5, 2016

    The Big Goal Collaborative (BGC) planned the agenda for the Big Goal Collaborative Summit in October with a focus on access to continuing education; completion of programming that aligns with regional employer’s needs; and retention of a talented workforce.

  9. Early Learning Summit Discussed

    June 6, 2016

    The Big Goal Collaborative (BGC) focused on Early Learning and hosted community leaders who attended the Economic Development via Early Learning Coalitions Summit in Ball State University in Muncie. The group met to strategize about rallying the region around the availability of high-quality early education and Pre-K.

  10. FAFSA Completion Competition Results Released

    May 19, 2016

    The Big Goal Collaborative and NIPSCO released the results of the regional FAFSA Completion Competition for regional high schools. The three winning high schools awarded a graduating senior a $1,500 scholarship. 

  11. Gallup StrengthsFinder Training

    April 11, 2016

    In an effort to spread the use of Gallup StrengthsFinder as a way to strengthen talent in Northeast Indiana, Regional Partnership staff presented a tailored workshop to the Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana’s (YLNI) Leadership Institute 2016 class. Participants learned their strengths, and participated in team building activities that created greater understanding of the strengths-based coaching. 

  12. Northeast Indiana Strengths Coach Network

    March 16, 2016

    The Regional Partnership convened the Northeast Indiana Strengths Coach Network, a group of professionals from New Tech schools and industry leaders in Northeast Indiana who are all trained Gallup StregnthsFinder coaches. The Coaches Network gathered together to trade best practices and experiences in coaching employees, students and teachers. The network was trained and launched with the ultimate goal of connecting students and employers through coaching and mentorship with a simple, common language – strengths.

  13. FAFSA Assistance Program Launched

    February 9, 2016

    Several Northeast Indiana organizations partnered with the Regional Partnership’s Big Goal Collaborative to offer free support to students and families in completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

  14. FAFSA Completion Competition Launched

    January 25, 2016

    The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s Big Goal Collaborative partnered with NIPSCO to launch a regional FAFSA Completion Competition for regional high schools. The competition ran until March 10. Three winning high schools were given a $1,500 scholarship to award to a graduating senior. 

  15. Kindergarten Readiness Action Team Published Report

    November 10, 2015

    The Kindergarten Readiness Action Team published its first Early Childhood Education Report for Wabash County. The report provided a baseline set of county-level indicators, such as the percentage of children enrolled in high quality early learning programs to measure future progress, and a menu of proven strategies from which to choose. 

  16. College to Career Action Team Completed Two Milestones

    July 6, 2015

    Two primary milestones of the College to Career Action Team (CoCAT) were to create an experiential learning database and an educational asset map. As of July 2015, the team has completed both. Next steps included developing a plan to help more local employers get the talent they need and more local students get the experiences they need.

  17. Family Engagement in Early Learning

    June 12, 2015

    The governor’s Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) approved a Family Engagement Toolkit piloted in Indiana by pre-kindergarten education programs in the fall of 2015. Both programs helped low-income four-year-olds prepare for success in kindergarten. EEMG programs included Pathfinder Kids Kampus in Huntington County and DeKalb County Central United School District. Allen County was one of five counties engaged in the On My Way Pre-K pilot. Big Goal Collaborative Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Team members Wylie Sirk, Deanna Wilkirson, and John Peirce serve on the ELAC workgroup that developed the research-based toolkit.

  18. Early Learning Grants om DeKalb, Huntington

    June 8, 2015

    Two Northeast Indiana early childhood education programs were awarded Early Education Matching Grants to serve additional four-year-olds whose families live below the federal poverty level. The grant allowed DeKalb County Central United School District to provide a high quality pre-kindergarten experience for 72 students. Pathfinder Kids Kampus in Huntington has its EEMG grant renewed allowing it to serve an additional 10 children. Programs were required to raise 50 percent matching funds to receive the state funding through the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

  19. Early Childhood Task Force Partnered with NIIC

    May 19, 2015

    A task force led by the Education Leadership Council (ELC) to develop a regionally focused business case for investing in early childhood development recruited the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center as a partner. The partnership encouraged corporate and individual investments in early childhood education. 

  20. Sampson Presented to Education Leadership Council

    May 17, 2015

    John Sampson, president/CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, presented to the Education Leadership Council at its May meeting on the Regional Cities Initiative. Sampson’s presentation outlined the goals of the initiative, which are focused on making Northeast Indiana a center for talent attraction and retention, and emphasized the integral connection of the initiative to the region’s Big Goal. 

  21. Big Goal Collaborative Director Speaks at National Conference

    May 12, 2015

    Ryan Twiss, director of the Big Goal Collaborative, spoke as part of a panel at a national post-secondary and workforce conference in Columbus. The subject was strategies, best practices, and lessons learned for engaging employers in collaborative efforts to improve education. 

  22. Persistence/Retention Action Team Launched

    April 27, 2015

    The Persistence/Retention Action Team was created to help postsecondary students stay in school until completion, and in the region. 

  23. Technical Education Leaders Met with National Partners

    April 20, 2015

    Gary Gatman, executive vice president of strategic initiatives at Northeast Indiana Works, and Big Goal Collaborative (BGC) Director Ryan Twiss traveled to Cincinnati to share with and learn from other communities focused on workforce outcomes. The BGC joined Albuquerque and Cincinnati in a two-day meeting facilitated by StriveTogether and Living Cities to share experiences and best practices to increase the BGC’s ability to help impact manufacturing and other technical education outcomes.

  24. Group Focused on Middle Grade Math

    April 20, 2015

    A new group was added to the Big Goal Collaborative - the Math Action Team. The goal of the team is to help improve middle grade math outcomes. The group is comprised of individuals representing school districts, community partners, higher education, and business. 

  25. Task force Assembled around Investment in Early Education

    April 14, 2015

    The Education Leadership Council assembled a task force to develop a regionally focused business case for investing in early childhood education. 

  26. Early Learning Professionals Survey Developed

    March 23, 2015

    Northeast Indiana Works and the Kindergarten Readiness Action Team developed a survey of early learning professionals in Northeast Indiana. The survey was created to clearly understand the challenges of hiring, training, and retaining the talent needed to attain the Big Goal and to better serve the child care needs of working parents. 

  27. Statewide Project-Based Learning Support Launched

    March 18, 2015

    What began as an informal collaboration among agencies throughout the state interested in the support and expansion of project-based learning (PBL) in Indiana has launched as new organization called Magnify Learning. In 2012, CELL at the University of Indianapolis, EcO 15 in Columbus, Ind. and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership founded the ICPBL to support ongoing professional development in the project based education model as a way to leverage the state’s resources and expertise. Realizing that true systems change require regular and consistent backbone support, the founding members formalized their support in the form of Magnify Learning to prepare formal and informal educators with classroom management tools to improve student engagement and academic performance. The professional development services offered by Magnify Learning focused on enabling educators to better develop in their students the personal and social skills required to succeed in their post-secondary studies and in their careers. 

  28. FAFSA Completion Pilot Program

    March 10, 2015

    The High School Action Team finished its first FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) completion project. The group set up completion support efforts at three sites in Allen County, including two library branches and the St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The program helped more than 150 individuals with question and 36 individuals complete the FAFSA.

  29. Gallup Strengths Training

    March 9, 2015

    The Regional Partnership funded the training of 21 new Gallup Strengths Coaches in Northeast Indiana. The coaches mentored high school students from the region’s New Tech schools as part of the region's efforts to connect students directly to representatives of Northeast Indiana's leading industries.

  30. Strengths-Based Career Connection Pilot Launched

    March 2, 2015

    A group of regional educators and representatives of regional employers participated in a week-long training pilot program to connect New Tech students to employers based on the Gallup Strengths-based coaching model. Trainers from Gallup taught the Accelerated Strengths Coaching course. The program was created to help students identify and develop their own unique sets of talents into strengths.

  31. FAFSA Pilot Project Launched

    February 24, 2015

    The High School Action Team’s Project FAFSA provided information or FAFSA support to nearly 75 students and adults in the region. Nearly a dozen individuals completed their FAFSA as a result of the pilot.

  32. Follow the Reader Program Offered Regionally

    February 23, 2015

    The 3rd Grade Reading Action Team’s Follow the Reader online tutor training program was made available free of charge to individuals or organizations in the 10-county region of Northeast Indiana and for a $500 annual charge to organizations outside of the region. 

  33. Technical Education Teams Focused on Funding

    February 17, 2015

    The Technical Education Team worked to identify and secure funding that would support Career and Technical Education programming in support of advanced manufacturing career pathways. Members of the team have worked together to secure four large grants (approximately $400,000 in total) to enhance or add programming for high school students in such areas as welding, precision machining, and industrial electronics. 

  34. Virtual Tour of Follow the Reader Hosted

    February 10, 2015

    The K-8 Third Grade Action Team offered a virtual tour of Follow the Reader, a brief online training program for parents, tutors, and mentors of young readers. 

  35. MadeByMe Campaign Launched

    January 20, 2015

    The technical education team, with support from a $65,000 grant from the state, worked with Asher Agency and launched a new marketing campaign, MadeByMe, aimed at promoting manufacturing careers to middle and high school students. 

  36. On My Way Pre-K Pilot Launched

    January 20, 2015

    Community Action of Northeast Indiana (CANI) received 120 family applications for 60 Pre-Kindergarten slots made possible by a United Way of Allen County matching grant required to attract state funding to be applied. An estimated 1,450 four-year-olds living in families below 127 percent of the federal poverty level were eligible to be served. 

  37. Postsecondary Persistence/Retention Team Started

    January 12, 2015

    An action team focused on helping college students to stay in school until completion, and remain in the region after, met for the first time in January. The team discussed a variety of potential projects related to persistence in postsecondary education and retention in the region and will be prioritizing topics for future action. 

  38. Follow the Reader Created to Boost Third Grade Reading Levels

    November 17, 2014

    Nearly 100 people attended the launch of Follow the Reader on November 20. Follow the Reader, which is based on Project READS curriculum, is available on the Project READS website, www.followthereader.abouteducation.org

  39. Big Goal Collaborative Presented at National StriveTogether Conference

    October 20, 2014

    Ryan Twiss, director of the Big Goal Collaborative, and Courtney Tritch, vice president of marketing at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, conducted a two-hour workshop helping other StriveTogether partnerships find their “why.” The workshop was designed to improve communication and grow support for educational initiatives in other communities, while providing examples from the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

  40. Snapshot on Education Released

    October 8, 2014

    The Big Goal Collaborative released the 2014 Snapshot, a report on the state of education in Northeast Indiana. The baseline report marked the first time that this education data has been compiled at a regional level. The Snapshot gauged the region's success in a series of key measures that have been identified by Big Goal Collaborative stakeholders and volunteers as critical to the region's ability to produce an educated and technically qualified workforce.

  41. Pre-Kindergarten Pilot Program Launched

    September 24, 2014

    Twenty-three representatives from Allen County schools and organizations participated in an all-day Pre-Kindergarten Pilot Program conference in Indianapolis and were praised by Governor Mike Pence for their efforts. At the conference, the Indiana Department of Education and the Family and Social Services Administration announced a new “additional pathway” for public schools to participate in the Paths to QUALITY rating and improvement system. Fort Wayne Community Schools and East Allen County Schools are interested in achieving the Level 3 or 4 rating required to participate in the Pre-K Pilot.

  42. Workforce and Professional Development Workgroup Formed

    August 19, 2014

    The Big Goal Collaborative and the Allen County Preschool Pilot convened a workgroup focused on growing the professional workforce needed for the Preschool Pilot Program and other quality early childhood learning efforts. The group aligned its work with the governor’s Early Learning Advisory Committee.

  43. Allen County Chosen for State Early Learning Pilot Program

    July 23, 2014

    Allen County was one of five counties chosen to participate in Indiana’s early learning pilot program. Unlike the majority of states in the U.S., Indiana has never had state-funded early learning. 

  44. Region 3 Works Council Endorsed EWIN Action Team

    June 17, 2014

    The Big Goal Collaborative's Education/Workforce Innovation Network (EWIN) Action Team was endorsed as a standing committee of the Region 3 Works Council. The endorsement provided alignment to focus on supporting career and technical education (CTE) in Northeast Indiana and engagement as a part of the cradle-to-career education system in the region. 

  45. Wabash County Promise Adopted the Big Goal

    June 11, 2014

    The Wabash County Promise adopted Northeast Indiana’s “Big Goal,” working to increase the percentage of Northeast Indiana residents with high-quality degrees or credentials to 60 percent by 2025. 

  46. Principal Survey Results Submitted

    May 19, 2014

    The High School Graduation Action Team created and distributed a survey to high school principals across Northeast Indiana to learn more about graduation rates in their schools. Preliminary results suggested principals perceive attendance issues, behavioral issues, and a challenging home life as top indicators when it comes to high school graduation. 

  47. Region Participated in Early Childhood Education Study

    April 15, 2014

    John Peirce, a consultant to the Big Goal Collaborative and United Way of Allen County for early childhood initiatives, was selected to serve as an advisor to the Indiana Early Childhood Education Economic Impact Project. The project defined and directed research needed for the state legislature’s Summer Study Committee on age 0-5 learning, which is part of the House Enrolled Act 1004. The research examined the economic benefits of early childhood education and the costs and benefits of expanding early childhood education in the state. 

  48. Grant for Regional Career and Technical Education Initiatives

    April 15, 2014

    The Region 3 Works Council was awarded a $65,000 Career and Technical Education (CTE) Awareness Grant by the Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI). The funds focused on pathways to advanced manufacturing careers, promoted CTE opportunities in advanced manufacturing to middle and high school students, and supported school counselors’ understanding of advanced manufacturing and pathways to employment in that sector.

  49. Big Goal Collaborative Staff Presented at National Conference

    March 24, 2014

    Katy Silliman and Ryan Twiss spoke at a national StriveTogether conference about strategies for creating a shared community vision and sustainability. 

  50. Tutoring Program Started to Improve Reading Levels

    March 17, 2014

    As part of the efforts of the 3rd Grade Reading Action Team, education majors from the University of Saint Francis tutored second graders at Forest Park Elementary School once a week for the entire spring semester. 

  51. High School Action Team Released Survey for Principals

    March 13, 2014

    The High School Action Team created a survey for high school principals based on questionnaire data the team gathered in the fall of 2013. The survey was distributed to principals via the Principals Study Council and focused on the types of strategies high schools use to help their students graduate.

  52. Kindergarten Readiness Speech-Language-Hearing Exploratory Meeting

    February 19, 2014

    A subcommittee of the Kindergarten Readiness Action Team met to explore issues of early diagnosis and treatment of speech, language, and hearing issues that could lead to more children entering Kindergarten prepared for success in school. 

  53. Early Childhood Learning Summit Hosted

    February 19, 2014

    The Big Goal Collaborative, PNC, and United Way of Allen County hosted a summit on the economic benefits of investing in early childhood learning. Approximately 140 business, education, and civic leaders gathered to view a webcast of an interview with Dr. Robert Dugger of ReadyNation conducted in Indianapolis by Gerry Dick, host of Inside Indiana Business. 

  54. K-12 Principal Study Council Launched

    January 21, 2014

    Region 8 Education Service Center convened the K-12 Principal Study Council. The council encouraged principals to meet with their peers to learn and discuss issues facing them.

  55. Projects Focused on Literacy Tutoring

    December 18, 2013

    The 3rd Grade Reading Action Team started work on two projects: connecting pre-service teachers from the University of Saint Francis with a target elementary school to provide tailored literacy tutoring and providing volunteer literacy tutoring in a target school or schools with volunteer training from Project READS. 

  56. Graduation Rates Assessed

    December 10, 2013

    The High School Graduation Action Team interviewed high school principals in Northeast Indiana about graduation rates and contacted community programs that serve target schools. 

  57. Data Collected on Kindergarten Readiness

    December 9, 2013

    The Kindergarten Readiness Action Team collected data to determine how many children in Northeast Indiana are prepared for Kindergarten. With the help of Dr. Deb McMahan, the health commissioner of Allen County, the group also started work to provide local pediatricians with an early-age language assessment and referral resources.