Northeast Indiana has committed to a Big Goal

March 18th, 2015

News Coverage:

Northeast Indiana has committed to a Big Goal

By John Sampson and Kathleen Randolph for The News-Sentinel

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - 12:01 am

If you want to find a new job, data show that there is better than a 50-50 chance you don’t have the education or credentials you will need to get it.

Workers in our region are confronting this stark reality. Less than 37 percent of northeast Indiana’s workforce have the kind of degree or credentialed skill that employers are looking for today. The data and research are clear; by 2025 more than 60 percent of jobs will require education beyond high school, whether that is a two- or four-year degree or a professional credential such as a technical certification. More than ever before, formal education or specialized training will be the key to your personal success at work.

At a media conference in mid-January, IPFW officials released the findings of a study identifying the types of training that area employers seek the most. Survey results showed the most interest in the fields of leadership development, computer training, lean manufacturing, and Spanish for healthcare professionals.

In the same study, employers identified degree areas with the highest current and near-future demand in our region. The list includes business/management, organizational leadership and supervision, and communication.

These findings are directly in line with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development’s (DWD) newest “Hoosier Hot 50” list of the top 50 high-wage jobs in the state by 2022. More than half of the jobs on the Hot 50 list are in STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Nearly 90 percent of the jobs require some type of post-secondary certificate or degree. Most importantly, 40 percent of the jobs are new to the list.

Think about those statistics for a moment. Twenty of the 50 top high-wage jobs that the experts anticipate will become foundational to our state’s economy just joined the list this year. More than 25 of the Hot 50 job list are in fields requiring formal education in STEM. Just to get a chance at working in 40 of the 50 jobs on the list, you will need education or training beyond high school.

Statistics like these are the very reason why northeast Indiana has committed to the “Big Goal.” There is no question that our region needs educational institutions from early childhood through higher education to be aligned in preparing students for the best and most exciting opportunities in our immediate future. The Big Goal is one of seven priorities identified by Vision 2020 as crucial to achieving a fundamental transformation in our region’s economy. It aims to increase the percentage of northeast Indiana residents with high-quality degrees or credentials to 60 percent by 2025.

To compete in today’s global marketplace, we must work together to reach the Big Goal. Employers have opportunities today for not just any worker, but those who bring skill and knowledge to the stiff competition for jobs in a global marketplace. Our region must secure a renewed commitment to lifelong learning that leads to high quality employment opportunities, and IPFW is a critical partner in this effort.

Annually, over half of IPFW graduates remain in northeast Indiana, living, working and contributing to the northeast Indiana economy. Their unique knowledge, expertise and work ethic are much more likely to stay right here in Northeast Indiana, allowing employers to grow and improve our quality of life.

IPFW is “all in” in their commitment to increase the number of graduates in the region. Last fall, the school launched the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP), a special program offering half off of tuition rates to students who had left school before finishing their degrees. If those students met certain criteria they could return to complete degree requirements at a substantial discount. The program was a great success with over 100 students back in the classroom and contributing to the region’s Big Goal.

This innovation is inspiring similar programs elsewhere in the state. During this legislative session, one of Northeast Indiana’s legislators, Representative Casey Cox, authored HB1262 to require the Indiana Commission on Higher Education (ICHE) to model a similar program statewide.

IPFW is helping to set the course to achieve the Big Goal and a brighter future for the residents of northeast Indiana!

John Sampson is president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, and Kathleen Randolph is president and CEO of Northeast Indiana Works.