President and CEO Letter: Building on What's Working

When I think about how Ascend Indiana can best support Indiana’s talent development efforts, I reflect on lessons I learned in my earlier manufacturing career. As human resources senior manager at a global automotive manufacturer, I quickly saw that employees hired as production associates who rose to team leader then group leader stayed with our company much longer than employees who were hired directly into a group leader role. It wasn’t that the employees who were hired as group leaders lacked leadership skills, it was that they lacked the foundational knowledge of the Subaru Manufacturing Way. Once we changed our onboarding process to allow new leaders to experience 6 months in production and team leadership roles, we saw retention rates drastically improve. That was one of many lessons about the value of leaning into a program or process that is successful and applying that same principle to another process.

I have carried this same philosophy with me to Ascend Indiana. There is great work being done in Indiana to prepare talent for today’s jobs – and those not even imagined yet – and Ascend is committed to building on what’s working and serving as a force multiplier for increased reach and impact.

Here are several initiatives that Ascend is prepared to help elevate:

1). Partnering with established advanced industry organizations: Bruce Katz and Colin Higgins say it best in their article “Funding Networked Governance” when they describe Central Indiana Corporate Partnership’s (CICP) ability to “bring structure to the practice of collaboration.” Few organizations can effectively engage public, private, philanthropic, community and academic leaders, coalesce them around a common vision and impact wide-ranging challenges, such as talent development, better than CICP.

Over the last 25 years, CICP has founded industry-specific initiatives focused on growing agbiosciences (AgriNovus Indiana), life sciences (BioCrossroads), advanced manufacturing and logistics (Conexus Indiana) and technology (TechPoint). Ascend, as CICP’s talent development initiative, is uniquely positioned to partner with each industry sector initiative to support their talent development programs while also learning from their industry and academic partners about future economic trends, such as innovation, and how those will impact talent development efforts.

2). Impacting change through collaborations: Ascend has long worked with industry, academic and state partners to deliver effective talent development programs, insights and services. By formalizing these working relationships, Ascend could increase its impact on Indiana’s talent development ecosystem. Specifically, Ascend seeks to partner closely with Indiana state agencies, regional workforce organizations, academic partners and employers to gather and share best practices so there are resources to scale and replicate successful talent programs across the state.

3). Educating young talent to succeed in Indiana’s economy: From the Next Level Programs of Study (NLPS), which seeks to improve the consistency and quality of Career and Technical Education, to Career Pathways and the Career Scholarship Account program that enable work-based learning, Indiana is creating new ways to prepare students for future careers in Indiana. Through its high school redesign proposal, the Indiana Department of Education is exploring additional ways for students to engage in work-based learning by providing flexibility for students to personalize learning pathways and experiences. As work progresses in secondary schools – and even as early as elementary school – Ascend will work with employers and educators to ensure connections for mutual benefit.

We are fortunate to be working in a state that is often held up as the example of how to do things the right way through partnerships. Ascend will build on that reputation, with the goal of preparing more Hoosiers and more businesses to thrive in the economy of the future.