Members of the Knox County Development Corp. continue their push to make sure local youth are seeing clearly the possibilities for careers right here at home.
KCDC president Kent Utt told members of his board of directors Friday morning, at the group's regular monthly meeting held at Vincennes University's Isaac K. Beckes Student Union, that a June 28 orientation is in the works for the 18 students recently selected for the county's inaugural CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) Program.
The programs was created by the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship in Effingham, Illinois to connect high school students with their local business leaders. There are already successful programs in Daviess County and Lawrence and Crawford counties in Illinois.
After a lengthy application process, the program's newly-appointed advisory board, led by local attorney Graham Dycus, selected four students from North Knox Junior Senior High School, six each from South Knox Middle High School and Lincoln High School and two from Rivet Middle High School.
“We've got really great representation from all four schools,” Utt said.
Kristi Utt, a computer and business teacher at North Knox with experience in both the public and private sectors, has been selected as the program's part-time facilitator, and advisory board members are still sifting through the more than 30 local business sponsors to finalize meeting spaces for the coming school year.
The group will meet each school day from 7:30-9 a.m. at various business locations, all in an effort to show them what career opportunities exist for them in Knox County.
Kent Utt told the group that in recent years the county's population has somewhat leveled off, bringing to an end a multi-year decline.
But part of keeping it level — or even seeing it increase — will be with programs like CEO and others that help to convince local students to launch careers at home.
“And this is just another way to expose kids to opportunities here,” he said of the CEO Program. “I'm extremely excited about this.”
Utt said KCDC is also pursuing funding for two other programs, ones with similar youth-oriented goals.
One, he said, would be an “externship,” of sorts, that would actually look to connect teachers with local manufacturers.
Modeled after successful enterprises in Vanderburgh, Warrick, Posey and Dubois counties, the program, dubbed “Teacher Bootcamp,” would allow teachers to spend part of their summer breaks immersing themselves in the workforce, specifically at places such as Farbest Foods Inc. and Futaba Indiana of America.
“I'm really looking forward to talking through this a little more with educators,” Utt said Friday morning. “Teachers, vocational teachers specifically, would spend up to two weeks in the workforce, going through the process, being mentored and seeing what happens in those facilities, working side-by-side with employees.
“Then they can take what they learn back to students and show them what opportunities exist here.”
Utt said there was “more to come” as that idea unfolds, but the demand, he believes, would be high. Teachers in Vanderburgh County, he said, were even turned away from a program there as there weren't enough workforce spaces to accommodate them.
And participating teachers, he said, would receive some kind of stipend, too.
The other program for which the KCDC is seeking funding would be one in which students would receive an ethics certificate, one focused on the development of “soft skills,” things like attendance, punctuality, appropriate workplace manners and even community involvement.
“Those soft skills are rising to the top of the list of things businesses say they need from employees,” Utt said.
Currently, such a program is in 16 high schools across the state already.
“There are some really good things going on right now between education and business,” Utt said. “It just seems like collaboration between the two is terrific.”