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Lu Ann Franklin - 9/12/2015

SCHERERVILLE | Preparing students for current and future jobs involves improving the college and career readiness of all graduates in Northwest Indiana, according to Linda Woloshansky, president & CEO of the Center for Workforce Innovations Inc.

Woloshansky presented an overview of READY NWI, a regional grassroots and regional platform she co-founded in 2011, at the monthly meeting of the Lake County Advancement Committee at Teibel’s Restaurant.

READY NWI, an acronym for Regional Education and Employer Alliance for Developing Youth in Northwest Indiana, brings together employers, K-12 educators, college leaders and economic and workforce development professionals "to ensure prosperity by meeting the skill and education needs of employers throughout Northwest Indiana," she said.

"Nearly 100 people came to the table (and) worked religiously on this initiative," Woloshansky said. Currently 28 school systems in Northwest Indiana — 15 of the 17 in Lake County — have signed on to provide a framework for students to become career and college ready.

"Over 1,000 counselors, teachers and administrators have been engaged in READY NWI," she said Friday, explaining that the focus is on science, technology, engineering, the arts and math.

Employers have also come on board to provide on-the-job training, internships and other programs.

"It’s critical that we align the skill sets of students to careers," Woloshansky said. "So many of our jobs need those skill sets."

In addition to increasing the higher education rate, she said Northwest Indiana must "decrease the need for remediation. The schools are doing the heavy lifting on this."

"By 2025, 60 percent of all jobs will require postsecondary education," Woloshansky said. Yet, she added, not all college degrees will provide the kinds of skills needed for the jobs available, and too many young people carry college loan debt for 30 years or more.

Among the steps Woloshansky recommended are the following:

• Encourage parents to support training programs in the trades.

• Hardwire young people that they need postsecondary credentials, such as certifications and dual credits for college.

• Career and academic plans needs to be coordinated. By eighth or ninth grade, all students need to have their career plans outlined.

• If a student doesn’t meet the requirements for a four-year degree, a college or university shouldn’t admit the student to that program.

“Stackability” of education needs to be stressed. First go after a credential, then an associate degree. By the fourth year, achieve a bachelor’s degree.