Hub 19 collaboration creates cohesive connections with students, businesses, communities

Hub 19 celebrated its successful partnerships in a showcase for the public and constituents last week at the Jasper Arts Center.

The collaboration between all four county school corporations (Greater Jasper, Northeast Dubois, Southeast Dubois, and Southwest Dubois), Vincennes University Jasper, Patoka Valley Career and Technical Cooperative, and Dubois Strong was awarded a million-dollar Regional Opportunities Grant in 2018. The grant, paid out over five years, was to support their efforts to create programs and partnerships designed to better prepare students for successful careers and entice them to pursue careers in Dubois County.

Rick Gladish, former chair of HUB 19, pointed to several goals laid out at the program’s inception.

“Number one, develop career and innovation hub for Dubois County. Number two, develop student employability skills at all grade levels. Number three, improve and align student career exploration and awareness opportunities. Number four, develop engaged and relevant learning environments in our classrooms. And number five, create a strong advanced manufacturing pathway and academy now known as the automation and robotics academy,” he said.

In essence, from grade school through high school and into college, Hub 19 set out to create an ecosystem to plant, cultivate, and produce students who will become assets in their careers and communities and build connections with them to tie them to Dubois County. In an area constantly struggling to find employees, this is one of the prongs of the multi-pronged approach to facilitate and sustain population growth.

Through a multifaceted approach that begins in grade school, the group targets the crossing point between students’ skills, interests, and opportunities to lead them to the sweet spot of career success.

The group’s efforts have continued to adapt to the needs of students and employers through the implementation.

Dana Kunz, Career Counselor at Jasper High School, noted that while students are academically prepared for their chosen careers, they lack certain soft skills. “The major deficiency was in the intangibles, the soft skills, the employability skills, the showing up for work on time, and work ethic,” she explained. “Those pieces that are so important in having a successful employee and a successful career.”

To facilitate the development of those attributes, Kunz and several others developed the Dubois County graduate profile that identified nine key areas to develop those intangible skills. While the key areas — balance, excel, contribute, design, collaborate, communicate, initiate, relate and prepare — remain consistent through a student’s school career, the elements to develop those attributes are adjusted for each grade level.

Here is an example of the graduate profile for an 11th/12th grader.

Kunz explained that as students work through these graduate profiles, they will be recorded electronically and be available as part of a potential employee’s resume or job application.

While Dubois County has taken the lead in developing this graduate profile, the state has also started a similar process. In a recent meeting with the State Superintendent, Kunz found that Dubois County’s graduate profile reflects five or six of the state’s graduate profile attributes already.

“We won’t have to reinvent because we are already doing the work and starting to lay the groundwork for what this looks like for our students,” she said, referring to what the state is preparing.

While the four school corporations are fundamental in building the students from the ground up, VUJ has also become a vital partner in introducing high school students to collegiate level career training through the Patoka Valley Vocational Cooperative. Students now have access to five training programs offered through the partnership. They can take classes and earn college credit for IT Support/Cybersecurity, Automation Robotics, Construction Trades, Emergency Medical Technician, and Business Management.

The Construction Trades and Automation Robotics Academy were certified as Indiana State Earn and Learn programs (SEAL). SEAL programs are structured but flexible and provide an educational component along with paid on-the-job training to develop the highly sought-after and skilled talent that industries and businesses need.

Patoka Valley has also met the needs of students and employers by facilitating 11 programs that range from Health Sciences (HOSA), CNA, and Aviation to Criminal Justice and Welding Technology.

According to Jarred Howard, Director Patoka Valley Career and Technical Cooperative, 375 Dubois County students are enrolled in one of the programs. Two-thirds of Dubois County high school seniors are enrolled in a Patoka Valley program, and 109 Dubois County students are earning VU college credits.

The partnership has also led to a multitude of internship and job shadowing opportunities.
“Almost half of our senior class in Dubois County is in a work-based learning or job shadow internship,” Howard reported. “They’re being exposed to lots of great things we have in our county.”

Indiana Furniture has taken on interns through the Automation Robotics Academy and the work-based learning internship program. CEO/President of Indiana Furniture Max Verkamp encouraged other businesses and companies to become involved as well. But participating companies must be willing to invest time with the students to be successful.

“Kids talk,” Verkamp said, adding they will advocate for good internships while dismissing those in which they couldn’t be hands-on or simply tagged along. “If we invest in them now, they are going to want to work for our companies down the road.”

He acknowledged the program has been malleable to the needs of the industry partners. Not all internships have gone exactly as planned, but the Hub 19 partners have continued communications with participating companies to make adjustments on either side to ensure the program is successful for all parties.

“I encourage you to take a look at these programs to determine what’s right for your organizations,” he said. “And if you do make that determination that you want to jump in, make sure you’re fully invested and that you’re going to invest in the students when they’re part of your organization.”

Essentially, this is designed to build those relationships that lead to students remaining in the community and taking on career pursuits locally.

Dave Randich, the former CEO of MasterBrand who is now a professor at Purdue, is part of the Education and Entrepreneurship component of Hub 19. He explained that in his new role as a professor, he has been surprised at the skills gap between students who do well in college compared to those who either begin dropping courses or even drop out of school as freshmen.

Witnessing that “really crystallized in my mind that the most important thing community can do is educate the young people within the community,” he said.

Based on that experience, the Education and Entrepreneurship committee mapped out a process from grade seven to 12 to educate students in Dubois County and prepare them for life. It covers everything from the curriculum, interactions between students and faculty, and interactions with the parents.

“From everything I’ve seen, students can go through our school districts can be very, very successful,” Randich said. “The problem is, not every child has an advocate that’s helping them navigate through this. And so if a student is like me, is unmotivated as a student, and doesn’t have the advantages I had of parents pushing them through school, they can get lost in our system. And that’s where really the community comes in.”

Another aspect of success for Hub 19 is the sense of cooperation between the four local school corporations, said Northeast Dubois Schools Superintendent Bill Hochgesang. “It was a huge step for four of us to come together and put aside our competitive natures and our differences and say let’s all work together as a county for the better of all of our students,” he said.

For Gladish, the endeavor has been worth all the hard work.

“This was, without a doubt, one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my 41 years in education; Just a fantastic opportunity for our schools and our community,” Gladish said. “Please keep the collaboration and unified efforts going. It will make all the difference in Dubois County and for our students.”