Tomorrow’s jobs, today’s classes

Higher education goes practical

Eve-Lynn Clark, photography by Neal Bruns
Dr. Mindy Yoder, DNP, FNP-BC, RN, photography by Neal Bruns
Cathy Maxwell, photography by Neal Bruns

Higher education in Fort Wayne has a relentlessly practical orientation for admirably visionary reasons. You can see the philosophical stretch become reality on campuses where students become graduates who become employees of companies that are thus able to grow and succeed in Northeast Indiana. You may be one of those students, you may be one of those employees, you may have hired some of those graduates, but we all benefit from the growing economy this process supports. When today’s classes lead straight to tomorrow’s jobs, it’s good.

Achieving that coordination between classes and jobs is so important it’s not left to chance or even good intentions. It’s the result of the region’s leaders in academia, economic development and business working together and using the best data available to identify responses that lead to good outcomes. The goal is not simply more jobs; it’s also better jobs, an economy in which the average person/family has a higher income than today, preferably higher than the state and national average. In the 1970s, that’s the status the Fort Wayne area enjoyed. The goal is to get there again – with a key difference.

In the 1970s, people with a high school diploma had jobs in Fort Wayne that paid better than the national average. Well-paying jobs now require more education, ranging from a post-secondary, industry-recognized credential through a two-year associate degree to a four-year college degree or graduate degree.

“It is imperative that Northeast Indiana continue to create stronger pathways to higher-level learning and that the education and training match

the needs of employers,” said Rick Farrant, director of communications at Northeast Indiana Works, a regional nonprofit. The organization is charged by state law with facilitating school-business partnerships and enhancing career-readiness and success.

“A higher-skilled workforce will also have the benefit of helping to raise the region’s per-capita income,” he said.

Today’s economy is full of challenges that the Fort Wayne of the 1970s wasn’t facing. For example, if the workforce isn’t ready when the jobs need to be filled, nothing prevents today’s globalized corporation from simply moving that production line and those jobs to a place where people with the necessary skills can be hired.

Ivy Tech Northeast, the regional campus of the state’s community college system, has long been the standard-bearer in the battle to bridge the gap between educational attainment of entry-level employees and what employers really need. Its experts can create a training program to meet an employer’s specific need in a month, and it has created a new for-credit program in as little as a year. However, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Cathy Maxwell admitted, “A year is ambitious, but we have done it. I know we can do it.”

The urgency that pushes such achievements is real.

“The need is now. The need was yesterday,” Farrant said. “Part of the challenge here is to see if there are short-term solutions to the need for skilled workers while never losing sight of the fact the real solution has to be long term.”

Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana are well down the road of understanding our economic situation and responding with programs that make a difference.

For example, high school students here, particularly those interested in any of the advanced manufacturing fields, can earn a certification in a particular field and be halfway to an associate degree while still in high school. This means they can graduate with the option of continuing their education or going straight into the workforce with a good job because they will have one of those industry-recognized credentials, he said.

Their new jobs might be in welding, industrial maintenance or machining, each of which has more job openings now than qualified applicants. For the record, Farrant explains, industrial maintenance is not sweeping the floors.

“Industrial maintenance technicians are those that have the capability of repairing or maintaining the equipment in a factory and, in some cases, installing it. They are called upon to know everything there is to know about the machinery that is operated in a plant,” he said. These days, that includes robots.

“We need to change the perception and the old stereotypes of manufacturing as dark and dirty workplaces,” he said. “Today’s manufacturing is in clean, high-tech and bright workplaces where a high level of skills is in demand.”

Job growth in manufacturing, Northeast Indiana’s largest employment sector, is expected to rise 2.3 percent during the next decade, according to a projection by IPFW’s Community Research Institute released last June by Northeast Indiana Works. Northeast Indiana’s manufacturing job growth will be stronger than a number of other similar Midwest regions.

Students training for health sciences careers are the biggest single program at the University of Saint Francis, which made a big commitment to such programs in 1998 when it augmented its existing programs by buying the Lutheran College of Health Professions. And it has done them well, with national accreditation and consistently excellent results when students take licensure exams, said Dr. Mindy Yoder, DNP, FNP-BC, RN, dean of the USF School of Health Sciences. USF offers nursing degrees at associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s (which prepares the student to be a family nurse practitioner) levels, along with other health sciences programs for physical therapist assistants, radiologic and surgical technicians and physician assistants (also at the master’s level). Outside of the school of health sciences, USF students can earn degrees in social work, exercise science and health administration, she said.

“We are projecting a nursing shortage in the next 10 years or so,” Yoder said, “about a million because of the aging of the nursing work force, so it is critical to have the next generation of nurses. Plus we will have increased access to health care with the new federal-level activities going on, and we have an aging population.”

USF also is responding to another important regional industry that is facing losing a significant portion of its employee expertise to retirement in the coming decade, this time with a brand-new program.

Starting with the fall 2015 semester in the university’s 125th year, USF students will be able to major in Risk Management and Insurance through the business school, building on the success of what has been a single class about the principles of insurance over the past few years.

Eve-Lynn Clarke, an insurance industry veteran and formerly an adjunct professor teaching the original class, is now assistant professor of risk management and insurance in the university’s Keith Busse School of Business & Entrepreneurial Leadership.

“It starts out with awareness of what insurance is today and understanding that there are local insurance companies that are doing very well,” she said, “and there are lots of job opportunities.

“A lot of these insurance companies are struggling to find technical resources here in the area.”

A grant from the Lilly Foundation is helping USF develop the major and minor, in partnership with the insurance companies and the USF office of internships and experiential learning, she said.

Even with the single foundational class offering, “we have already placed a student at Swiss Re,” she said, an international company based here, and at other local companies. “We are very excited about the opportunities.”

She sees a big change afoot, so big she calls it a paradigm shift about what insurance might mean for her Millennial generation students.

“The days of thinking insurance is just sales are over,” she said. “We are trying to change that mindset. Sales is definitely a part of it, but my objective is to approach our Millennials differently.

“My question is: Do you want to help people? You might like a job at an insurance company as a claims adjuster. Do you like math? You might like a job at an insurance company as an actuary.

“It’s all about awareness. The exciting thing is that students taking the risk management course are finding opportunities. Old National talked to the students about internships as navigators for the Affordable Care Act.”

Ivy Tech is always at the forefront of the effort to align education with meeting the needs of the region’s employers.

“We spend a great deal of time surveying what’s going on in our community of Northeast Indiana. We do studies to find out what programs are viable and what is needed,” Maxwell said. “To start programs we need to justify them, to show that there are jobs, jobs that will earn them what I call a living wage, not minimum wage.

“That’s why we are at the forefront – because we do our homework.”

Not surprisingly, Maxwell is part of the Big Goal Collaborative, led by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership to pull together community and education leaders toward the goal of having 60 percent of Northeast Indiana’s adults have a post-secondary degree or credential by 2025, up from 35 percent now.

Ivy Tech Northeast’s programs focus on health care, manufacturing, visual communications, computer science, supply chain management and logistics, pre-engineering/engineering and energy technology, all identified through that process of surveying the community. It also trains auto and aviation mechanics, helps students who otherwise might not complete high school with its Gateway to College program and boosts students who want to get into a better four-year college with its American Honors program.

Ivy Tech learns things that might seem surprising; for example, Northeast Indiana needs a program to train farmers.

“Agriculture is another one in this region,” she said. “Few are offering that, and there’s a great need for it. So we started an Ag program.

“It is a science, and people don’t realize what a farmer needs to know to be successful running a farm: management, aquaculture, green farming, all the things that are on the forefront of agriculture today, all the things that make the difference between living wage and minimum wage,” she said.

Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne is celebrating its 50th year and its first doctoral degree this year, one that hits the sweet spot where education and employment needs intersect. Its new Doctor of Nursing Practice program is an example of how IPFW plays its role of filling regional gaps at the highest level of education.

“This program partners up so nicely with, and I am looking forward to developing collaborations with, the IU School of Medicine four-year school of medicine here,” said IPFW Chancellor Vicky Carwein. “The medical school teaches some of the very same content that this advanced nursing program teaches.” She hopes the university can develop some jointly taught classes and have some cross-listed courses.

“That’s a dream. We aren’t there yet,” she said. “And some joint clinical classes together, too, would be quite a statement in terms of the interprofessional practice that is the thing today.”

Similar thinking about regional industry’s needs on the highest level led the university to establish its process engineering program several years ago. Carwein said IPFW continues to look to the future and to respond to the community’s needs with additions to its 200-plus programs. She listed actuarial sciences and applied statistics, electrical and computer engineering, computer science and information systems, health sciences and health care, health care administration and management and medical materials science as employment areas the university is now focusing on. In addition, IPFW has earned praise for its programs in support of veterans, she said, and is working on programs to help people who have started college but dropped out return and complete their degrees.

As a regional campus, IPFW’s mandate has always been to serve the community this way, Carwein explained.

“In its 50-year history, IPFW has clearly been meeting the needs of the region for the kinds of programs that have been developed,” she said. “Eighty-five percent of the students come from Northeast Indiana, and by far the majority stay after graduation to work and live.”

Hot spots
The combination of collaboration and the data that was not available or so easily usable 50 years ago gives this alignment effort a significant ability to analyze trends and predict future needs. 

Trends to watch
In the next decade, 1 million-plus employees needed

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development announced last November that it expects the state to grow approximately 336,640 new jobs by 2022 (a growth rate of 11.86 percent), with nearly one-third of those jobs in the sectors of manufacturing, retail trade and health care. In addition, the Hoosier state will need to replace workers who are retiring and to account for normal job market turnover, resulting in a total need of roughly 1,002,593 employees over the next decade.

Health care still growing
Projections compiled by the Community Research Institute at IPFW and released last July by Northeast Indiana Works show strong growth in health care employment over the next decade.

The three largest employment areas will all grow from 30 to 24 percent: nursing, psychiatric and home health aides; registered nurses and licensed practical and vocational nurses. Health care support occupations, including dental assistants, medical assistants and phlebotomists, will grow 20 percent. The occupations that will grow the fastest by percentage will be physical therapist assistants and aides, optometrists and occupational therapy assistants and aides, all from 45 to 56 percent.

Home health care services will grow the most of all, projected at 87 percent.

The good news? The average health care wage exceeds the current average regional wage, so health care jobs help move our numbers (and our overall well-being) up.

Northeast Indiana’s job areas of interest
The state Center for Education and Career Innovation commissioned an analysis of labor market demand and supply in Indiana in 96 occupational groups and found the following significant balances and imbalances in Northeast Indiana.

• In manufacturing, there appears to be more demand than supply of postsecondary credentials in skilled production, engineering technology and installation, maintenance and repair workers.

• In transportation and logistics, there appears to be more demand than supply of postsecondary credentials.

• In financial services, there appears to be more demand than supply for financial and information clerks.

Conversely, demand and supply appear to be balanced in these health care fields: Health diagnosing and treating practitioners; health technologists and technicians, and health aides and support workers.

Replacing those retirees
Twenty percent of Northeast Indiana’s workforce is at or nearing retirement age, Northeast Indiana Works announced last August, using data compiled by the Community Research Institute at IPFW. Here are the industries and occupations most affected:

Public & Private Education: 27.7 percent
Truck transportation: 26.2 percent
Machinery manufacturing: 25.5 percent
Merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods: 23.9 percent
Insurance carriers and related activities: 23.7 percent
Social assistance: 23.1 percent
Motor vehicle and parts dealers: 22.9 percent

Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks: 30.4 percent
Secondary school teachers, except special and career-technical education: 29 percent
Elementary school teachers, except special education: 28.7 percent
Medical secretaries: 28.4 percent
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers: 26.9 percent
Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing: 26.2 percent
Maintenance and repair workers: 25.4 percent
Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers and weighers: 24.8 percent
Registered nurses: 24.2 percent
Machinists: 24.1 percent

First appeared in the February 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.


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