Students of all ages: Skill up this summer with Get to Know NEI

Preparing students for the modern workforce doesn’t mean teaching them how to follow one clearly defined path to success anymore, says Ryan Twiss.

As Vice President of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s new Talent Initiatives division, Twiss and his team are working to shift this perception in the region.

“The nature of work is changing faster than training and education can keep up with,” he says. “There is really no single path to what success might look like by the time today’s students are entering the workforce.”

Instead, it’s more about the lifelong process of skill-building.

As a result, the Regional Partnership and a coalition of partners are working to help students find more authentic and practical ways to skill up for 21st-century careers—and ideally, build those careers in Northeast Indiana.

Thanks to funding from the Olin B. and Desta Schwab Foundation in 2019, the Partnership is one of four regional groups that received a collective $2 million to align their resources around a multi-prong initiative to serve educators and students, grades 6-14. Other partners on the project include Ivy Tech Fort Wayne, Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana, and Region 8 Education Service Center.

“Our real emphasis is to take students through the process of discovering who they are and what they’re good at, and then leveraging that knowledge to connect them to career opportunities,” Twiss says. “None of this is designed to put them on a path to a specific type of education, employment, or training. It’s really about activating who these students are, so they can become lifetime learners.”

To achieve the Schwab Partnership's goals, each organization has been leveraging its own network of student, parent, and educator relationships. Twiss says the Regional Partnership has been serving as the backbone of the group. It even reorganized internally as a result of the project, creating the Talent Initiatives team, which includes himself, Sonya Snellenberger Holmes, and Amy Hesting.

From the outset in 2019, the Schwab Partnership team has been helping educators and students through in-person, face to face programs. But while their work was gaining momentum in 2020, COVID-19 hit Northeast Indiana and reset everyone’s agendas.

As colleges and K-12 schools closed early in the spring of 2020, educations and internship opportunities were cut short, and traditional e-learning has only been somewhat effective at filling the gap.

As a result, Twiss’s team is taking an innovative approach to virtual education to help Northeast Indiana parents, educators, and students alike learn from home this summer. They recently launched a Schwab Partnership website as an interactive tool for anyone to get plugged into their work for free. A key component of this website is providing a platform to share a new web video series developed in partnership with Input Fort Wayne called “Get to Know NEI.”

This video series allows local business and nonprofit leaders to share their personal career journeys with students in simple web videos, as if they were guest speakers in a classroom. In this way, it leverages the talent already in Northeast Indiana to help rising talent skill up and glean firsthand knowledge from a variety of fields.

Any northeast Indiana professionals interested in participating in the “Get to Know NEI” series can submit a video themselves, following a few simple guidelines, or they can work with the Regional Partnership to record a video in a live Zoom chat, says Sierra Disch, Marketing Project Manager at the Partnership.

For the past few weeks, Disch has been reaching out to local professionals to record video sessions with employees at the Regional Partnership, the Boys & Girls Club, and Fort Wayne Metals.

“We want to have a variety of professionals featured,” she says. “Some people have college degrees; others don’t. Some people started on one path and then pivoted based on their skills.”

Twiss says the “Get to Know NEI” series is another part of helping students understand the variety of careers and pathways available to them in Northeast Indiana and see the complexities of modern careers playing out.

“It’s not just about what these professionals do every day; it’s also focused on the people in these jobs and the paths they took to get there,” he explains.

He also notes that the website and video series are only one, small component of the overarching and ongoing Schwab Partnership. As Northeast Indiana re-emerges from COVID-19, the team plans to re-implement more in-person events and resources to guide students to meaningful and productive futures.

In the meantime, their website simply serves as a portal to their work.

“One of the most important things you can do right now is to contact one of our partners on the site if you’re interested in learning more about them,” Twiss says.

In addition to serving the community during COVID-19, the Regional Partnership sees the website and “Get to Know NEI” video series as a continuation of its “Make it Your Own” brand, marketing Northeast Indiana as a place where talent can carve their own path to success.

“It really is about helping talent control their own futures,’” Twiss says.

Make a Get to Know NEI video

If you would like to share your career journey with area students and educators, contact the Schwab Partnership to learn more. 

Each video should include the following information:

· Tell us about you: Your name, your job, and a little bit about your work.

· Tell us what personal interests and skills attracted you to your current career.

· Tell us about the training and credentials necessary for you to become successfully employed in your current field. How long did that take?

· Tell us why northeast Indiana: How long you’ve lived here, what general part of town you live and work in, and either what brought you here, or what’s keeping you here.

· Show us what you do: Give us a quick rundown of your typical workday, a behind-the-scenes look at your processes, or anything in between.

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Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.