GOSHEN — Goshen Community Schools is on a mission to provide the best education possible for its students. But, in order to do it, the school corporation needs significant community buy-in.
That’s the word from GCS Superintendent Diane Woodworth, who was among the headliners invited to speak during Wednesday’s Goshen Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Wake Up, Goshen! breakfast at the Bread & Chocolate Catering & Event Center in the Old Bag Factory.
During the event, Woodworth and other GCS leaders and partners spoke on the state of Goshen Community Schools, with a focus on how collaboration with the local business community is needed in order to help today’s students learn and thrive both while in school and after they graduate.
According to Woodworth, one of the more exciting programs GCS has recently implemented that connects directly to the local business community is the corporation’s Advanced Manufacturing Pathway and apprenticeship program.
Through the pathway, created in partnership with the Horizon Education Alliance, GCS aims to provide graduates with the experiences and training that lead to obtaining good jobs in high-need, high-paying local manufacturing businesses, while also providing the resources local manufacturers need to train incumbent workers, Woodworth explained.
Sharing more about the apprenticeship program in particular Wednesday was Steve Hope, deputy superintendent of GCS.
“We want to make this a symbiotic relationship: you help us, but we can help you. One of the best ways we can do that is through the apprenticeship program,” Hope said of the local business community. “With Goshen being one of the major manufacturing hubs in our country, Goshen schools wants to be able to promote that workforce and supply workers as needed, and also supply the facilities needed to train and retrain our incumbent workforce. So, Goshen schools will be a leader in providing that labor to the market that’s already here.”
According to Hope, word on the street among the local business community is that it is quite difficult to find — and retain — enough quality employees.
“That’s what the industry has been telling us,” he said of the issue. “We are responding to that need from industry by supplying trained workers. Last year, Goshen saw its first CPT (Certified Production Technician) graduates ready to enter the workforce with that specialized training.”
So, that’s how GCS is helping the business community. But how then can the local business community help GCS?
According to Hope, it’s all about apprenticeships.
“We need these experiences for our students. You need workers. And this is not just for manufacturing, but for all areas. Anybody can go through this,” Hope said of the school corporation’s apprenticeship program. “So, our students start out taking classes during their junior year, then they might take a few career-oriented classes, and then do an internship in your business. And then, if things are going well, and the student thinks that might be a career path for them, and you feel like it’s working out pretty well, they would have a paid apprenticeship then during their senior year.”
And, should the apprenticeship work out well for both the student and the employer, Hope said the ultimate goal would be for the student to have a job waiting for them at that company following graduation.
“So, we want to provide you with quality employees. We want to provide the structure, support and training to help you with those employees,” Hope said. “We want to help diversify the local economy.”
For those local companies who might be interested in offering an apprenticeship to a GCS student, Hope encouraged them to visit careerwiseelkhartcounty.org to find out more about such opportunities.
“We’d love to have your help,” he added.
Also noted by Woodworth as a new and exciting collaborative program within the school corporation this year is the DRIVE Program, which stands for Developing RedHawks Intentionally with Volunteer Engagement.
“It’s focused on mentoring of students as they transition through middle school,” Woodworth said of the program. “We’ve got this large middle school – the fourth largest in the state – and there are nearly 1,600 students of that age all in one place. And they do a remarkable job, but it’s a hard time of life. And so, some of the kids could just use a little help with a mentor.”
Helping to provide a bit more information about the new program Wednesday was program co-founder Mike Varner, partner at Kruggel Lawton CPAs and 2020 Goshen Chamber Board Chair.
“This kind of was born in January 2019 when the Goshen Noon Kiwanis did a Community Assessment panel. It was just an open panel discussion of what do kids need? What do they need in our community? What do they need to thrive? So, what it boiled down to is, kids need to feel happy, healthy, safe and loved,” Varner said of the program’s origins. “And I have no training in this. We don’t need training. What the kids need is just a safe, secure relationship with an adult. And, as we tie into the chamber and business, how can all of you help? We’re talking about 15 hours annually. That’s what we’re talking about.”
According to Varner, those 15 hours are divided into about 30, 30-minute mentoring sessions between a community member and a student once per week during the school year.
“And again, it’s in a public setting, in the school, and we do background checks and all those things,” Varner added of the program. “But it’s just building a relationship, and just talking. And the way I approach it is, how can I help this young man get to high school and be ready? That’s literally the mission for me. So, I would encourage you just to think about it. Think about how, with that stable relationship, you might be able to help a child. Believe it or not, that half hour once a week can make a dramatic difference.”
Woodworth offered a similar sentiment.
“The research is very clear about kids who have come from maybe a hard background, and they make it. When they dig into the reasons why, it’s almost always an adult that believed in them, and was there for them,” Woodworth said. “So, thank you so much.”
Anyone interested in becoming a DRIVE mentor is asked to contact Alan Metcalfe, assistant superintendent in charge of elementary education for GCS, at firstname.lastname@example.org.