Collaborative builds bridge between educators, work force

December 12th, 2014

News Coverage:

Collaborative builds bridge between educators, work force

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2014 11:00 pm

One major component of the Big Goal Collaborative is the need to develop a framework of support to prepare high school students for graduation and transition to college or other post-secondary training.

Projections indicate that by 2025, more than 60 percent of all jobs in northeast Indiana will require some sort of certification or degree to meet the demands of local industry and business. Consequently, graduating from high school is an essential step for enrollment in college and entrance into the workforce. We can only reach the Big Goal if we ensure every student graduates. To best support Northeast Indiana students, educators must embrace the Big Goal as well as understand the demands required of our 21st century workforce for business and industry.

One year ago, members of the BGC High School Graduation Action Team set out to meet face­ to­ face with high school principals and guidance counselors to discuss work-force demands and to discover how the BGC could support schools in their efforts of increasing graduation rates. In these interviews, principals and guidance counselors said that they were seeking avenues to expand their collegial networks. Existing networks were inconsistent between schools and were leading to perceptions of isolation and limited knowledge about local work-force needs.

In order to provide educators direction, the BGC worked with the Region 8 Education Service Center to establish monthly principal meetings and quarterly guidance counselor meetings to connect educators with their peers and regional resources. Held at Homestead High School, these collaborative gatherings featured speakers from BGC partners, such as Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Ivy Tech Northeast, Questa Foundation and Northeast Indiana Works, who interacted with participants regarding the resources and services they provide to support students and educators.

Additionally, principals received copies of Jim Clifton’s book, “The Coming Jobs War,” courtesy of Northeast Indiana Works and the Regional Partnership, leading to an in­-depth dialogue surrounding the responsibilities of educators in establishing paths to workforce readiness.

With the principal and guidance counselor groups being sustained by Region 8, the action team launched an effort to increase the number of students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by March of their senior year.

Our regional high school graduation rate is just above 90 percent, but our college enrollment percentage is much lower.

The FAFSA is a requirement for students furthering their education in college and to be eligible for loans, grants and most financial aid. By increasing the number of FAFSA applicants, more students will access financial assistance thereby opening new opportunities for post­-secondary credentials and degrees.

The BGC will launch a pilot for 2015, beginning with three sites in the Fort Wayne area staffed with trained volunteers and area college financial aid directors to answer questions and help fill out the required information for 2015. As families complete their 2014 tax returns, volunteers will assist those with high school seniors on the FAFSA.

The more students in northeast Indiana who can potentially access post­-secondary educational opportunities, the more likely it becomes that the Big Goal is achieved and the needs of industry and business will be met. Bridging the gap between work-force ready attainment and high school graduation is an important step for competing in northeast Indiana and the global market.

About the authors

Wylie Sirk, Ph.D., has served over 35 years as an educator and school administrator. He currently serves as a consultant to Ivy Tech Northeast and is a visiting instructor for the educational leadership program at Indiana University­Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). He is also very active within the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s Big Goal Collaborative.

Joshua Wenning is the executive director for the Region 8 Education Service Center and Indiana ASCD. He holds two master’s degrees in education and administration and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana Tech in global leadership. He is also an active volunteer with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s Big Goal Collaborative.