PERU – All three school districts in Miami County are set to launch a new state certification program that local officials hope will help meet the workforce demands for area businesses.
Peru, North Miami and Maconaquah school corporations this year will begin offering high school seniors a chance to enroll in the Governor's Work Ethic Certificate – a program which measures students’ academic effort and work ethic.
To receive the certificate, participants must excel in nine different areas, including teamwork, dependability and reliability. Seniors must also have a 98-percent or higher attendance record, and complete at least six hours of community service.
In return, 10 Miami County businesses so far have agreed to give any student who receives the certificate a guaranteed job interview. Some of those employers are also offering any student who completes the program an increase in base pay, bonus vacation, tuition reimbursement and flexible scheduling.
Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, which initiated the program in the county, said the certificate is a way to teach students basic skills that many new hires are lacking.
“This was in response to our regional employers, who say they need some kind of soft skills and workplace-ethics training for new employees coming in,” he said. “Our employers are basically asking, ‘Just give us somebody who will show up on time, know how to work and stay off their cell phones.’”
“This isn’t a 100-percent solution, but it’s our attempt to help with that by providing this certificate,” Tidd said.
Brooke Robertson, director of business retention for MCEDA, said the goal is to get half of the businesses in Miami County to sign-on to the program to give students an incentive to go after the certificate.
“There’s not much use for this certificate if employers aren’t going to recognize it,” she said.
Employers which have already agreed to participate include Dean Baldwin Painting, Orion Safety, Smithfield Foods, Co-Tronics and W.C. Redmon Company.
Area businesses interested in joining the program can contact MCEDA, or their local economic-development leaders, she said.
In the end, the certificate program is meant to encourage students to prepare for a job with a local company, which sometimes struggle to find qualified workers, Tidd said.
“Manufacturing and other business are looking at ways to generate their own workers,” he said. “They need some type of pool to pick from, and our high school students are the future for this region.”