April 30, 2017
I was hired by the Center of Workforce Innovations to move the needle. I’m selling Work Ethic Certificates to area school districts. My job is to convince school superintendents, principals and administrators that our program is easy to implement and as valuable as any current classroom offering.
There are 38 school districts in Northwest Indiana. Two years ago, I accepted the position as coordinator of the Work Ethic program.
A large number of employers believe young people lack the proper attitude to be a good worker. The Center of Workforce Innovations understands that a well-educated, well-prepared workforce was important to our region’s economic vitality.
As we began to assess the interest of educators regarding the Work Ethic Certification, schools were identified as “interested, involved or integrated,” with the latter the highest mark. Integrated meant that a district had embedded the practices of the work ethic program into its daily curriculum.
My initial report, unfortunately, found most districts in the lowest category — interested — but not demonstrating any activity on the subject.
Today, I can report that our work over the past two years has paid off. A majority of schools believes in the work ethic activities and is doing something about it, or has plans to do so in the near future.
The work program measures students in several areas including attendance and discipline, punctuality, organization, respectfulness, teamwork and community service.
Teachers or counselors familiar with the student then verify these attributes.
Two of our area’s strongest champions are Hobart and Chesterton high schools. Last fall, Brent Martinson, assistant principal at Chesterton High School, had 400 students attend a meeting to hear about the merits of Work Ethic. Afterwards, 70 students signed a participation agreement.
I am fascinated with research that measures the importance of a student’s home life. Parents who have their children perform chores — taking out the garbage, unloading the dishwasher, putting clothes away — are raising people who will be more successful in their future personal and professional relationships. The foundation of a strong work ethic begins at home.
Findings from other studies indicate that busy students engaged in extracurricular activities — such as athletics, band, and clubs — record strong work ethic attributes.
My colleagues are meeting with business groups and companies to share the value of the Work Ethic Certificate. As firms fill open positions, our goal is that the firms give additional consideration to candidates in possession of that document.
One goal for 2017 is to use technology to increase the number of students with a Work Ethic Certificate. We are now piloting an online, six-week course that will cover every aspect of developing a strong work ethic. Our plan is to make the program available this fall to each of the 38 school districts in our seven counties in Northwest Indiana.
It would be a mistake to believe that a Work Ethic Certificate is meant only for students leaving high school with plans to enter the workplace. College-bound students stand a greater chance of success if they apply the principles of the program to their ongoing classroom work.
The technical skills of work are continuously changing. What will never change is the need for a reliable and dependable workforce. In my view, the Work Ethic Certificate is a timeless and valuable credential.
Daniela Mancusi-Shreve is the Work Ethic Coordinator at the Center of Workforce Innovations. The opinions are the writer's.
The READY NWI partnership supports the unique aspects of community, school, and student, and embraces a commitment to regional thinking and acting in order to ensure prosperity by meeting the skill and education needs of employers throughout Northwest Indiana.