Seven region universities will kick off their 26th year of Working Smarter, a weeklong series of workshops targeted at region residents seeking an education and better employment opportunities.
The program began in 1988 when The Times and Purdue University Calumet teamed up to present a series of educational programs designed to help local residents assess themselves and become more marketable in the workforce.
This year the workshops will begin June 24, and will have a range of events for each day. Career-service professionals will assist in job searching, and seminars will explore tools to help job applicants increase their marketability. Participants also can learn how to improve their resumes and create a clear map to their dream careers.
The workshops are sponsored by local colleges and universities from across Northwest Indiana. The goal is to provide information for finding a job, changing careers, returning to the workforce after an extended absence, considering entrepreneurial options and becoming more marketable through education.
Starting Monday, The Times will profile a student from each of the participating local universities and colleges. Some are nontraditional students, and some have overcome big social or economic challenges and become successful. Their inspiring stories show it's never too late to pursue a fresh goal or a big dream.
Wes Lukoshus, assistant vice chancellor for university relations at Purdue Calumet and Working Smarter program coordinator, said the program was prompted by a challenging economy because of employer downsizing in industrialized Indiana. Every year between 100 and 200 attend the Purdue Calumet workshop, Lukoshus said.
Since Working Smarter's beginnings, searching for a job has changed with technology, Lukoshus said. Working Smarter's bottom line is how someone is marketable and how their marketability fits in today's society, he said.
"When individuals who are out of work are searching for a job after being gainfully employed for 20 or 30 years, they're going through job searches that they haven't been through in decades," Lukoshus said.
Lukoshus estimated 10 to 15 percent of program attendees enroll in college the following academic year as a result of the Working Smarter series.
Over the years, other Northwest Indiana colleges, universities and other entities joined the program.
Cindi Czapla, Valparaiso University's continuing education academic adviser, said higher education is an important factor in job marketability.
"It's important because now, even middle-income jobs are requiring an associate's degree," she said. "It's very important you have something after high school, even a two-year degree."
At Valparaiso University's workshop, employees from WorkOne also will make a presentation. WorkOne helps unemployed and underemployed job seekers get back on track and find work. Working Smarter's aim is to help combat the job market challenges people face.
"A lot of people are unemployed; though the economy is improving, it's still a problem," Czapla said. "They're unemployed and without the skill set that some of these jobs demand. With the workshops, people can see exactly what they need to be more job marketable."