Program focuses on creating a talent pool for NWI employers

2013-06-17T13:21:00Z 2013-06-17T19:40:06Z Program focuses on creating a talent pool for NWI employersCarmen McCollum, (219) 662-5337

HOBART | Math and science are critical courses that students must take to be successful in college or a career, but the soft skills like communication and teamwork are just as important to employers.

That's what local businessmen had to say Monday when they participated in a two-day Summer Institute for Educators at Hobart High School.

The institute is sponsored by READY NWI, a grassroots initiative started in 2010 by local employers, educators, post secondary representatives and economic and workforce development professionals. The goal is to make sure Northwest Indiana high school grads are prepared for college and careers.

Workforce professionals say most high quality jobs emerging with Northwest Indiana employers will require specific credentials beyond high school.

Jonathan Nalli, CEO for Porter Health Care System, Robert Crookston, senior vice president/managing director at Microbac Laboratories Inc., and Michael Bracco, senior director of operations at Monosol Rx LLC participated in a panel discussion about the challenges of finding skilled and unskilled labor in Northwest Indiana.

"There is an increase in the type of math and science that students need," Nalli said. "As medicine gets more advanced, there will be a need for people to have more advanced skills. They will also need the ability to communicate with the patient and their peers."

Crookston talked about the need for applicants to have communication skills and teamwork. "Being able to work in a team environment is one of the most powerful assets a student can have," he said.

Crookston also said critical thinking and problem solving skills are essential. He said job applicants need to be able to assess a situation, break it down to the root problem and figure out a solution.

Leaders said there has been a pervasive problem facing the nation in that there is a disconnect between the workforce and education.

Vince Bertram, president and CEO of Indianapolis-based Project Lead the Way, said more employers are asking if students have had Project Lead the Way classes. He commended local leaders for their collaboration and said he stands ready to partner with them.

There are 50 different Project Lead the Way classes offered at schools across Northwest Indiana, noted Linda Woloshansky, president and CEO of the Valparaiso-based Center of Workforce Innovations. Woloshansky said it's important students began to see the relevance between the classes they take in school and how those classes can help them once they graduate.

She said READY NWI also wants to encourage girls and minorities to take more math and science courses, and the group stands ready to assist math teachers who want to improve their classroom approach to teaching math.

Plans are underway to expand Project Lead the Way classes to middle and elementary schools, with elementary schools on board in 2015.

Portage school superintendent Ric Frataccia said seventh- and eighth-grade students will begin taking a semester of Project Lead the Way classes this fall with a "Career Awareness Luncheon" for students.

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