- Linda Woloshansky
Twelve of our region’s READY NWI K-12 school districts recently conducted a student opinion poll with more than 1,300 high school seniors responding. Questions focused on opinions on Region quality of life, jobs and education. The results provide key insights for making Northwest Indiana attractive to young professionals.
The results offer challenges to address but huge opportunities as well. About 24 percent of respondents indicated a desire to stay in the Region, with others citing a lack of activities in the area that appeal to their age group. Others noted Northwest Indiana is a great place to raise a family and a good place to return after exploring other places. This is a positive result, particularly if we can be deliberate in staying in touch with students and attracting them back.
Another 30 percent said they cared more about the right job than where the job is located. Combined with the 24 percent already predisposed to stay here, that brings us to 54 percent that we might keep in the Region if we can connect them with the right jobs.
About 30 percent of students said they lacked knowledge of the types of jobs available here, and only 13 percent said they learned about jobs through school. Students listed other influences as critical for learning about jobs. More than 50 percent cited the value of extra-curricular activities and work experiences as most beneficial for career preparedness. This presents a big opportunity to connect our employers to schools in ways that give context to classroom work.
Distributing information to students and parents on the availability of good jobs and skills needed for those jobs is a constant challenge. READY NWI employer partners are addressing this challenge by creating videos showcasing jobs. Other employers are hosting school counselors and students at their workplaces and are talking directly to students as mentors, at career fairs and during Region-wide Manufacturing Day events.
Students suggested employers need to reach them in new digital ways. One student said, “Students almost can’t live without social media. Get job opportunities out to us in ways that are accessible to us.”
About 75 percent of seniors believed a four-year degree is needed for career success, but only 65 percent plan on going to college. This presents opportunities in several forms as good jobs increasingly require post-high school credentials — but not necessarily high-cost ones. READY NWI partners are committed to connecting every high school senior directly to post-high school education and training.
The commitment also is to present the full range of options from short-term industry certifications to advanced degrees, with each level of education preparing students for further education. We need 100 percent of students believing education beyond high school is a key to job success. To achieve our regional goals, we must continue to hear directly from students about their dreams, their ideas about attractive work environments and about ways to make our Region attractive for young talent.
READY NWI will continue to bring students and employers face-to-face to discuss what they want and need from each other and create the magic that comes from those encounters.