La Porte Community School Corporation hosted a Business and Community Engagement event Wednesday evening. The event deepened the relationships between La Porte Community Schools and local businesses in the effort to overcome all obstacles and create a better tomorrow.
Jen Hunt, Assistant Principal of K-12 Counseling, organized the event to educate and engage with La Porte’s business base, a relationship that Hunt reported as already strong.
“We are trying to remove any barriers to our success as a whole,” Hunt said. “We want to talk to every single student and ask them what they are interested in and where they’d like to go in life. We hope to have a partner in the community to help each student with their chosen career path.”
For Hunt, the night was about bringing in all partners within the community to build a stronger team. This is an ongoing process, and Hunt encourages members of the community to reach out to La Porte Community Schools if they would like to enrich a student’s life.
Hunt said that the youth of today are innovative, and oftentimes outsmart adults in areas of technology and progress. She believes that students are a valuable resource for the community, and their talents are often not used to their capacity.
“We are anticipating being able to fill over a million jobs over the next decade,” said Blair Milo, Secretary of Career Connections and Talent and former Mayor of La Porte. “It’s more critical than ever to have these conversations and relationships across different industry sectors, and that our businesses have access to a talented workforce.”
Milo continued, “[This creates a stage] to grow and thrive, for our students to be able to access these dynamic careers that they may not know exist if they don’t have exposure, particularly during early education. We hope to foster an understanding of what some of these concepts are in the beginning, and to engage and explore all along the way.”
Blair speaks across the state about the important pairing of businesses and students. She conveyed that there are 85,000 positions and postings of jobs where employers are seeking individuals for those positions. This year, the number of job openings is projected to surpass that number.
“The exciting aspect is that there are higher wages associated with those types of jobs coming out, which tells us there are new skills associated with these new jobs,” Blair said. “Something that has stuck with me is that a kid who is in kindergarten today, by the time they enter the workforce, 85% of the jobs available may not even exist today.”
Benjamin Carter, Indiana Department of Education’s Director of Workforce Innovation, said that today highlights the new Graduation Pathway Policy that was recently enacted. With Graduation Pathways, students have the ability to to personalize their graduation requirements to better match their goals.
“We are moving away from standardized testing to developing students’ employability skills and moving them to have experiential learning,” Carter said. “It comes down to that ‘One size fits all’ mindset, and acknowledging that the ISTEP test can’t determine the success of the students. Oftentimes, students aren’t prepared for college or prepared to make informed decisions once they graduate. We are looking to make a change where students can acquire even more employability skills.”
According to Carter, La Porte High School’s “Hire a Slicer” program is a something that should be modeled to other school corporations. Carter believes a grassroots, community approach for developing an intermediary between school and community helps to bridge the communication gap.
Matt Presley, College and Career Coordinator for La Porte High School and La Porte’s former workforce teacher of the year, runs the Hire a Slicer program. The program connects the business community and students all while opening lines of communication that, in turn, provide opportunities for our businesses to hire students and graduates that have employability skills and are ready to go to work.
“I created Hire a Slicer because I worked in the space where I had students who needed jobs, and also worked with employers who needed workers,” Presley said. “I realized the disconnect between the business community and school community. Together, with the technology department, we created the Hire a Slicer website.”
Hire a Slicer is something that all students can use to find programs that help them become employable. Having Hire a Slicer available to businesses creates an opportunity for any kind of employer to have access to talented students, and help them reach their career aspirations.
“I’m excited about the direction of our school corporation,”Presley said. “We are leading the way in a lot of areas in relation to business and community relationships.”