Indiana Daily Student

New workforce, education initiatives to affect region's economic development

<p>Region Filler</p>

Region Filler

Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc. presented its first report, which introduced a new Regional Council and the first set of education, workforce and quality of life initiatives.

ROI is a nonprofit that works to support regional development opportunities in the 11 counties of Southwest Central Indiana.

The nonprofit got its start with a $25,870,000 grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. in 2015.

ROI’s first report detailed the findings of their Occupational Needs Assessment, which looked at six months of data relating to the workforce and interviews with 60 employers in the region.

Tina Peterson, ROI’s interim CEO, also announced a Regional Council at the report presentation. Members of the council will act as liaisons between people in their community and the larger goals of the initiative.

Monroe County’s member is Anne Bono, the director of advocacy and public policy on the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.

The largest part of the report was introducing a set of initiatives that ROI introduced this school year and is introducing this upcoming school year.

These initiatives will have long term effects on education, workforce and economic development in Southwest Central Indiana, said Betsy Trotzke, marketing and communications manager for the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County.

Ready Schools Initiative

This initiative plans to help schools align their curriculum with the needs of the larger workforce. The goal is to ensure that students are being prepared for the industries they are most likely to work in after finishing school.

Peterson said that about 85 percent of the people learning in this region will end up working in this region, so the goal is to help students build the skills they will need in the workforce.

Research has shown the region has three key industry sectors: life sciences, defense and advanced manufacturing. These will be the skills the initiative focuses on.

Schools can apply to be a part of a cohort, or a grouping of schools that will work together on strategies. They will spend one school year in a design process and then will receive implementation grants to start their programs in the 2018-2019 school year.

Career Pathways Initiative

ROI presented their plan for a three-day symposium focusing on education and industry. The conference will focus on three pathways: defense, life sciences and advanced manufacturing.

Stakeholders and experts in K-12 education, higher education, industry and the overall community will be invited to attend.

More information about dates, registration and speakers will be available later this month.

Adult Education

ROI plans to bring together adult education organizations in the region to better understand the needs and shortcomings of their programs.

The meeting will be sometime this summer and will serve as an opportunity to create partnerships and combine efforts to help align adult education with workforce needs, according to a press release from ROI.

Graduation and Career Coaches

This initiative, which is a partnership with Ivy Tech Community College, started in the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.

The program brings graduation and career coaches who support 50-60 students in each school who are at the highest risk of not graduating high school.

The coaches work with students to create individualized programs to get them on track to graduate and make post-graduation plans.

Coaching activities also include mock interviews, financial literacy education and college visits.

The program aims to 
improve graduation rates in the region and increase the number of postsecondary degrees obtained by Indiana students.

The initiative is currently operating in eleven school districts in Southwest Central Indiana.

STEM Fellows

Through this initiative, principals can nominate teachers to become STEM Fellows. If selected, the teacher will go through training and professional development focused on STEM-related topics.

After completing the program, the teacher will be able to more thoroughly teach STEM-related classes and will be resources for their colleagues.

The first round of fellows will be selected to begin during the 2017-18 school year.

Advancing Out-of-School STEM Learning Grant

This grant through ROI will provide community foundations the money to support STEM programming that allows young people the opportunity for hands-on science learning, engineering, technology and math.

These programs can be at the elementary, middle or high school levels. They could include education in coding, hacking, robotics, design, engineering and more.

Programs will be developed to address gaps in STEM-related opportunities found in the community.

Educator Boot Camp

Educators will have the opportunity to complete an externship at different host companies to learn the skills needed and used at different levels of the organization.

The goal of these externships is to expose educators to industry jobs in Southwest Central Indiana so they can better tailor curriculum to the needs of that industry.

Host companies include Boston Scientific, COOK group, Crane NSWC, Jasper Engines, Metal Technologies and Technology Service Corporation.

Fifty educators will be selected to participate.


This event will allow high school students in the region to complete a cybersecurity challenge. ROI is currently researching challenges that would best fit students in the area.

The event will take place in the spring of 2018 and will help expose more students to the cybersecurity and cyberinfrastructure industries.

Skill UP! Work and Learn Internship Program

This program will place IT-focused people with employers and utilize a 3/2 work and learn model, according to an ROI press release. This is designed to allow students to attend classes three days a week and worth two days a week with a company in their industry.

For the first semester, students in the program will receive a $1,500 scholarship for coursework that will get them an IT certification. After the first semester, they will receive soft skills training before beginning the 3/2 work and learn experience.

Students will be paid $12 per hour for the 14-week experience. Employers will also sign a non-binding Letter of Intent to Hire.

Speakers Bureau

ROI will be working to create a list of speakers available to visit schools in the region. The speakers will discuss their company, skills necessary for their position, their job responsibilities and how they chose their current career path.

All of the speakers will be vetted by ROI through an interview and background check. People who are interested in becoming speakers can sign up at

Interstate 69 Interchange Analysis

In partnership with HWC Engineering, ROI will be conducting an analysis of the I-69 interchanges found in the Southwest Central Indiana region.

HWC was hired to help set up the system of interchanges and create a cohesive vision.

A final report of their findings will be presented early this summer.

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