Learn To Earn Network

In a world where colleges and universities routinely compete for the attention of prospective students, imagine how surprised Ryan Twiss, the vice president for regional initiatives at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, was when a friendly dinner, started two years ago, to give the presidents and chancellors of the region’s colleges and universities a chance to connect is now a network from which these institutions collaborate with regional public and private economic development leaders and stakeholders to create meaningful ways to meet their needs when it comes to educating and preparing the workforce of the future.

“We have world-class institutions and we wanted to see if we could create opportunities for collaboration,” said Twiss. 

The meeting-of-the-minds over a meal eventually became the Northeast Indiana Colleges and Universities Network and
includes Ivy Tech, Indiana University Fort Wayne, Purdue University Fort Wayne, Indiana Tech, Trine University, Grace College, Huntington University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Manchester University, and University of Saint Francis. In total these schools educate 40,000 students a year in more than 240 degree and credential programs.

“Although we don’t have a big land grant university in the region, we have the same student body footprint across these 10 campuses,” said Twiss. What this means for the region is an extensive pool of talent available for local employers.

One of the Partnership’s big goals for northeast Indiana to achieve by 2030 is to increase post-secondary education and credential attainment to more than 60% of the population. The collaboration of the region’s 10 institutions of higher learning play an important role in meeting this goal. 

When the 90-year-old party supply company Shindigz’s owners Shep and Wendy Moyle were looking to relocate their headquarters from South Whitley, downtown Fort Wayne wasn’t a forgone conclusion. 

The network worked together to show the Moyles that by relocating to Fort Wayne, they would be able to have a large pipeline of talent with the skills and educational background they were looking for from northeast Indiana’s post-secondary institutions. Not only did the Moyles relocate their company’s headquarters to downtown Fort Wayne, they brought an additional 40 – 50 new professional career opportunities with them.

John Shannon, vice president for academic affairs at Angola’s Trine University, said the network has been helpful as its members look to develop and create new academic and credentialing programs. 

Shannon said the network has identified certain workforce development needs in the area and has facilitated discussions on how collaboratively it may be able to address these gaps. 

Chancellor of Ivy Tech Fort Wayne Jerrilee Mosier said development of more structured and varied internship opportunities is something the network has worked to create. The colleges and universities understand their role in helping to create tangible, effective and innovative solutions to the region’s talent gap begins with getting students involved and engaged with the businesses located throughout the region. 

“By creating internship opportunities for students, we serve as the catalyst for the learning and earning connection to be made,” she said. “This type of collaboration, is a win-win for our community.”

In addition to working with the business community, the network also engages with local economic development organizations. Alan Tio, CEO of Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation (KEDCo) emphasized that the Northeast Indiana Colleges and Universities Network is a unique collaboration.

“We’re doing something very different here. I appreciate how our university and college leaders are willing to work together,” he said. 

The efforts of the Northeast Indiana College and University Network have received formal accolades through its recognition as a Talent Hub by The Kresge Foundation in partnership with The Lumina Foundation. 

As a Talent Hub, the network receives a grant of $125,000 to be used for local efforts to increase educational attainment beyond high school graduation. neindiana.com 


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