Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc., is working with regional leaders in Southwest Central Indiana to develop strategies focused on connecting education and industry to create a workforce that is prepared for the demands of employers.

As part of this effort, ROI conducted an occupational needs assessment within the region, initially focused on Southwest Central Indiana’s key sectors: advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and national security and defense. The results of the occupational needs assessment are informing a wide range of workforce and education initiatives that will be deployed over the coming months and years.

The following is a list of education and workforce initiatives launched by ROI in 2016 and 2017.

Ready Schools Initiatives

ROI will fund and assist three cohorts of school districts over the next three years to engage in year-long development processes to better align district curricular and programmatic offerings with the education and workforce needs of their communities. Cohort districts will receive a development grant of up to $150,000 to employ a District Readiness Coordinator to oversee activities and will be eligible to apply for implementation funding following the 9-month development process. More information on Ready Schools.

Career Pathways Initiative

In July 2017, ROI is convening a 3-day symposium to bring together education and industry in developing common understandings and articulation of three pathways in key SWCI sectors. The symposium will employ a design thinking process and focus on pathways in defense, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing. Stakeholders from K-12 education, higher education, industry, and the community will be invited to attend and engage in the process.

Adult Education

In summer 2017, ROI will convene adult education organizations and relevant stakeholders in SWCI to gain a better understanding of the needs and gaps. The goal of this convening will be to better coordinate efforts between and across organizations in aligning adult education with workforce needs.

Graduation and Career Coaches

In partnership with Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington, the ROI Graduation and Career Coaches 2-year pilot initiative was implemented for the 2016-2017 school year in 11 school districts in Southwest Central Indiana. Working closely with school administrators and counseling teams, graduation and career coaches support 50-60 students per school who are most at risk for not attaining high school diplomas. The Graduation and Career Coaches program is aimed at improving graduation rates and preparing students for pathways into technical certifications, associate degrees, and other post-secondary degree programs. More information on Graduation and Career Coaches.

STEM Fellows

ROI is launching an elementary STEM Fellows Initiative in 2016-2017. Teachers nominated by their principals, and subsequently enrolled into this initiative will engage in professional development centered on topics relevant to STEM fields and become STEM resources for their colleagues. Upon completing this program, STEM fellows will have increased competency in teaching STEM, be prepared to serve as STEM resources to colleagues, be an active part of a regional network of Fellows, and work with the community to increase relevancy in STEM. More information on STEM Fellows.

Advancing Out-of-School STEM Learning Grant

The Advancing Out-of-School STEM Learning Grant will provide $25,000 to SWCI Community Foundations to support exceptional STEM programming or develop new programs that offer young people the opportunity for hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering, and math at the elementary, middle, or high school levels. This could include coding, designing, robotics, STEM camps, makerspaces, hacking, or STEM internships, for example. Community Foundations will work with community partners to identify gaps and opportunities in their counties and design granting opportunities in response.

Cybersecurity Challenge

ROI is creating a cybersecurity challenge to engage high school students in the 11-county SWCI region. The event will take place in the Spring of 2018 and will include regional partners such as Indiana University and Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane. ROI is currently exploring cybersecurity challenge models from around the country with a goal of increasing opportunities for students in cybersecurity and cyber infrastructure.

Educator Boot Camp

In June 2017, more than 50 teachers, counselors, and school leaders participated in ROI’s first Educator Boot Camp. The week long camp was designed to increase educator awareness of the types of skills and knowledge needed for jobs available regionally and to enable them to provide more relevant curriculum and guidance to their students. More information on the Educator Boot Camp.

Skill UP! Work and Learn Internship Program

Skill UP! places IT focused students with regional employers in a 3/2 work and learn model in which students attend class three days a week and work two days a week with an industry partner. Students receive a scholarship for coursework leading to an IT certification, soft skills training, and receive $12/hour in this 14-week experience. Industry partners sign a non-binding intent to hire the interns at the completion of their program. More information on the Skill UP! Work and Learn Internship Program.

Speakers Bureau

The ROI Speakers Bureau provides opportunities for K-12 schools to bring awareness of the many careers available in Southwest Central Indiana. Typical presentations will be 20-30 minutes during which speakers can discuss their company, job responsibilities, skills and abilities necessary for their position, and how they chose their career path. More information on the Speakers Bureau.