Leaders in K-12 education and higher education from across Indiana gathered in Indianapolis in October 2018 to learn how they can work together to help children and young adults prepare for and build meaningful, sustaining careers. More than 400 participants attended the Lilly Endowment convening at the Indiana Convention Center. At the heart of the conference was a call to collaboration among educators from K-12 through higher education, and encouragement to seek partnerships with community foundations, local chambers of commerce and United Ways, and other organizations dedicated to supporting young people. State workforce development and community leaders joined the convening to learn how they can work with educators to promote opportunities for Indiana K-12 and higher education students.

Nearly all who participated in the conference are part of Lilly Endowment grant projects across the state. They were leaders from 38 colleges and universities in Indiana that are part of the Endowment’s Initiative to Promote Opportunities Through Educational Collaborations – Round III, A Call to Action. The initiative supports and encourages Indiana’s colleges and universities to better prepare students for meaningful, sustaining jobs and to connect students and graduates with employers seeking the next generation of talented workers.

There were representatives from 97 Indiana school corporations and charter schools that are part of Endowment’s Comprehensive Counseling Initiative for Indiana K-12 Students. The Counseling Initiative is a statewide effort that seeks to increase significantly the number of Indiana students who are emotionally healthy, realize academic success, graduate from high school, obtain valuable postsecondary credentials necessary for meaningful employment, and are prepared to compete and prosper in the global society in which they will live and work.

In welcoming participants, N. Clay Robbins, the Endowment’s chairman, president and CEO, encouraged cross-sector collaboration among diverse organizations. He called on them to be inspired and hopeful for the sake of their students and the well-being of Indiana.

“We have brought you all together because we believe you are committed to fostering a sense of optimism in the young people you serve,” Robbins said.

“We believe that helping young people in this way will have enormous benefit for their futures, the futures of their families and the futures of the communities in which they will live.”

A panel discussion – Jobs Fueling A Future Economy – offered eye-opening insights about how Indiana’s K-12 educators and higher education leaders can engage their students in career exploration and preparation in growing employment sectors in Indiana – technology, advanced manufacturing and logistics, and ag-biosciences. Panelists represented three statewide initiatives affiliated with the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership that are working to strengthen Indiana’s workforce development and innovation in the fields – Conexus Indiana, TechPoint and AgriNovus Indiana. They shared that:

  • Advanced manufacturing and logistics companies in Indiana are tapping into students’ skills and interests in computer science, medicine, and aerospace, among other fields. Conexus Indiana is striving to help connected educators and their students with these companies.
  • College students interested in careers in technology can start as early as their freshman year pursuing internships and other summer experiences to connect them with thriving, innovative tech companies in central Indiana. TechPoint is building pathways and networks to help students in Indiana and across the nation see the potential of building their tech careers in Indiana.
  • Indiana’s legacy in agriculture is fostering growth in the ag-biosciences sector, which brings together farming, technology, biological sciences, economics and entrepreneurship. AgriNovus Indiana is at the forefront of helping students in Indiana learn about companies working to make Indiana the global epicenter for ag-bioscience innovation.

Other sessions, including small-group workshops, were designed to encourage K-12 educators working on comprehensive counseling to sharpen their skills in project management, evaluation and reporting about the progress of their grants. There were workshops geared toward helping college and university leaders working to prepare their students for meaningful careers to harness the power of data about current and prospective students, and information about workforce trends to strengthen their efforts. Watch the presentation on completing CCI reports here.

Calling for new and transformative partnerships, Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), said those efforts must address the barriers that prevent children from achieving academic, career and personal success. He wove together compelling data about education attainment in the U.S., details about partnerships at UMBC that are enriching the lives of middle and high school students in Baltimore, and powerful personal stories from his own childhood.

“The message I have for you is this,” Hrabowski said. “The more we can knock down the boundaries between public and private sectors, the more we can look at  ways that universities can have two-year and  four-year institutions, the more companies get involved in looking at what it means to be career-ready, the more we talk about those skills that are most important the better off we will be.”