Career readiness focus of pilot program
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent August 18, 2012 11:40PM
The schools taking part this year:
Porter County Career Center
By the numbers
• Total regional jobs, 2012:
• Jobs requiring post-high school credentials, 2012:
160,000 (40 percent)
In 2025: 364,190 (80 percent)
Updated: September 20, 2012 6:11AM
Students in 13 school districts in Lake and Porter counties will take part in a pilot career assessment program this school year meant to unite their interests and abilities with available jobs in the region and the skills those jobs require.
Business, community and education leaders who have been instrumental in the plan, dubbed “Ready to Work, Ready to Hire,” announced the details last week at the Center of Workforce Innovations.
“It’s not a program — it’s a community action strategy,” said Linda Woloshansky, the center’s president and chief executive officer.
The program begins this year with eighth graders, as well as the high school students enrolled in the Porter County Career Center.
Ultimately, the concept will spread to grades 7 to 12 in the seven-county region, though the focus is limited the first year. Some of the participating schools already offer a limited aspect of the career assessment, which is provided through the testing company ACT, said Peggy Buffington, superintendent of the School City of Hobart.
The program, said Don Babcock, director of economic development for NIPSCO, will improve post-high school credentials in the region, whether graduates go on to two-year, four-year or vocational programs.
“The point is to have a more-educated, better-trained work force,” he said, adding only 26 percent of the region’s work force have credentials past high school. One of the goals of ReadyNWI is to increase that to 60 percent by 2025.
That’s particularly important as the region’s work force grows. The area’s job base is expected to increase by 1 percent each year, from 400,000 jobs this year to 455,237 jobs in 2025.
That figure doesn’t account for retirements, which would push it even higher, said Mark Maassel, president and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Forum. Maassel said a high percentage of job openings in the region can’t be filled with qualified people.
“We don’t have enough high school graduates to meet all of the needs,” he said.
The career assessment tests could some day come to replace the End of Course Assessment and Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress, because those tests don’t determine if a student is ready for the business world, Maassel said. He said there has been some discussion to that effect with representatives from the Indiana Department of Education.
The program has received about $100,000 in funding so far from Northwest Indiana community foundations and the Lumina Foundation, and it is seeking additional funding, Woloshansky said.