VALPARAISO | A group of local educators and business leaders is launching a pilot project with 13 school districts in Northwest Indiana to help students better connect school with the world of work.
The effort was announced Tuesday during a news conference in Valparaiso hosted by members of the Regional Education/Employer Alliance for Developing Youth of Northwest Indiana, or ReadyNWI, which operates as a key component of The Times-sponsored One Region, One Vision initiative.
School City of Hobart Superintendent Peggy Buffington said the pilot project will begin this fall with eighth-graders in Crown Point, Gary, Hanover, Hebron, Hobart, Lake Central, Lake Ridge, Merrillville, Munster, Tri-Creek, Valparaiso, Whiting and the Porter County Career Center.
She said students will take the ACT Explorer exam, which will help determine their interests in college and careers. Emphasis will be placed on the idea that the earlier students are prepared, the more successful they will be.
J. Guadelupe Valtierra, Ivy Tech Community College Northwest chancellor, emphasized the importance of earning dual credits.
He said students saved more than $14 million by earning college credits through Ivy Tech. He also talked about the importance of attending a community college like Ivy Tech, earning certificates and associate's degrees, then moving on to a four-year school.
Donald Babcock, NIPSCO's director of economic development, said by 2025 there will be 455,000 jobs available in Northwest Indiana.
"Eighty percent of those jobs will require post high school education," Babcock said.
Business leaders said Indiana's annual ISTEP-Plus doesn't prepare students for the skills they need to enter the workforce.
Linda Woloshansky, president and CEO of Valparaiso-based Center of Workforce Innovations, said the goal is to ensure students in Northwest Indiana are graduating with the skills necessary to obtain jobs in the region.
The planning initiative for the ReadyNWI Ready to Work, Ready to Hire plan was funded through the Lumina Foundation. Woloshansky said the center raised $100,000, and is regularly looking for grants and other money to support the efforts.