Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc., is working with regional leaders in Southwest Central Indiana (now called the Indiana Uplands) 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 key sectors in the Indiana Uplands: 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 list represents some of the education and workforce initiatives launched by ROI:

Ready Schools Initiative

ROI is funding and assisting three cohorts of school districts over 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 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.

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’s elementary STEM Fellows Initiative aims to increase STEM integration in early education and build a cohort of qualified teacher leaders. The teachers, nominated by their principals and selected to participate as STEM Fellows, engage in professional development focusing on topics relevant to STEM fields. Upon completing this program, Fellows will have increased competency in teaching STEM, be prepared to be a STEM resource to colleagues, be an active part of a regional network of Fellows, and work within their communities to increase STEM engagement. More information on STEM Fellows.

Advancing Out-of-School STEM Learning Grant

The Advancing Out-of-School STEM Learning Grant provided up to $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 in grades K-12. The goal of this programming is to begin broadening interest and engagement in STEM-related skills development and careers in an environment outside of the traditional school day. As of Spring 2018, 28 different programs have been funded across ten counties, including robotics teams, makerspaces, coding clubs, and other STEM-relevant extracurricular programming. Program partners include 4-H Clubs, WestGate Academy, Cub Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, Purdue Extension, and public school systems. More information on Out-of-School STEM Learning Grants.

Educator Boot Camp

The Educator Boot Camp is a week-long experience designed to expose teachers, counselors and school leaders to the wide variety of industry jobs available in the region. K-12 and adult educators are immersed in local industries to learn about the quality jobs available and the skills needed to pursue meaningful careers with employers in our region. The 2017 Boot Camp placed 54 educators from 15 school districts in two-to-four day externships with employers from the life science, defense, and advanced manufacturing sectors. More information on the Educator Boot Camp.

Cybersecurity Challenge

ROI’s 11 county region has an enormous cross-sector need for cybersecurity and cyberinfrastructure professionals. To help fill this gap, ROI has partnered with Indiana University’s School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering (SICE) and Carnegie Mellon University to help train educators and their student teams and to introduce them to the challenges seen in the PICO Capture the Flag (picoCTF) competition. More information on the Cybersecurity Challenge.