Northeast Indiana Develops Cluster of New Tech Schools
Northeast Indiana received a substantial boost for its area school districts when $5 million of a $20 million Lilly Endowment, Inc. grant was designated for the expansion of New Technology High Schools throughout the area. The initiative is part of a regional effort to develop talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to prepare the area’s workforce for new high-skill careers.
The initiative, called Talent Opportunity Success (TOpS) 2015, began two years ago when Lilly Endowment, Inc. approached the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne with an interest in developing the Northeast Indiana regional economy. The Foundation assembled a coalition of regional partners, which included business, government, community, and school leaders, to discuss how to align Northeast Indiana’s workforce, education and worker training programs.
Northeast Indiana’s economy is predominately composed of the defense and advanced manufacturing industries. It is projected that these industries will have approximately 4,000 new and replacement jobs available in the near future. Northeast Indiana needs the highly skilled workers that it lacks in order to fill these positions.
Kirk Kemmish, president of the Northeast Indiana Corporate Council, believes the region must align human resource needs with school output to develop the human capital required to support and develop the area’s industry. “Due to the age of companies and the workforce, a natural transition is about to occur. Therefore, we need to grow our intellectual capital,” Kemmish said.
He believes that the New Tech program is one solution to this problem.
“We went to California and observed the New Tech model, and we were very passionate about its ability to meet our needs,” Kemmish said. “It is necessary in order to take advantage of the 21st-century economy.”
The region has moved quickly to transform its area schools. Fort Wayne Community Schools opened New Tech High at Wayne High School in August and five additional school districts are considering implementing the model in the near future through the TOpS 2015 initiative. Adams Central High School, Huntington North High School, Lakeland High School and Whitley County Consolidated Schools are moving toward 2010 implementations, while East Allen Community Schools is considering a 2011 implementation.
All New Tech schools developed through TOpS 2015 will have a STEM focus. School leaders from each of the participating districts visited two STEM-focused New Tech school in Texas at the end of September to gain insight into best practices for integrating STEM curriculum, graduation requirements and skill development into New Tech High Schools.
According to Mark Becker, executive director of the Northeast Indiana Foundation, other future TOpS 2015 goals include possibly incorporating Early College and dual credit programs into school curricula, establishing project-based learning training programs for teachers, developing new communication vehicles for targeted groups in the region, assisting other industry clusters in the region, acquiring additional grants, and continuing to meet with core partners to determine the best way to achieve a good return on TOpS 2015’s investments.
“We are very fortunate to have the trust of the Endowment, as well as its resources,” Becker said. “We are very well-positioned to take full advantage of this opportunity.”
Published: September 2009