Strada awards education coalition nearly $1 million


The Columbus-based Community Education Coalition will receive nearly $1 million through a Strada Education Network grant to support programming in the coalition’s Economic Opportunities through Education Network.

The Innovative Solutions in Education to Employment grant was announced Tuesday by Strada, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving lives by creating more direct and promising pathways between education and employment. It is a three-year grant totaling $997,000 over the next three years.

The coalition was successful in securing the grant after several rounds of consideration, applying to support the EcO Network, which supports outcomes-based education-to-employment initiatives across 10 counties in southeast Indiana, including Jackson County.

Community Education Coalition and the EcO Network’s vision is to raise the region’s postsecondary attainment rate from 32.6 to 60 percent to meet projected needs of the local economy, said Kathy Oren, coalition executive director.

Grant funds will be used to support five different education pathways and student success strategies across the region, Oren said, with a goal of improving education outcomes for those in kindergarten through high school, postsecondary and adult students.

Funding will be going to:

  • Education and career planning programs, including career awareness and college readiness initiatives for students and families promoting a college-going culture, focused on high-demand STEM careers.
  • Providing Latino college and career coaches for middle and high school students, who will guide students on career and education pathways and assisting in the transition to college.
  • New or expanded Ivy Tech information technology education programs at four Ivy Tech sites, including a software development technical certificate for high school students in Lawrenceburg; an information technology helpdesk technical certificate pathway for high school students in Batesville; an accelerated associate degree from the Cyber Academy at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, offered out of Columbus; and an accelerated associate degree information technology pathway in Madison.
  • Collaborative student success work with Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus and Ivy Tech — Columbus to increase student success in college entry-level (gateway) courses.
  • Expanded support for workforce training for adult learners, a partnership including Jennings County Adult Educational Center, McDowell Education Center in Columbus and River Valley Resources. Grant money will allow the agencies to expand the number of adult learners who will complete industry-recognized credentials in high-demand industry sectors.

The areas are designed to strengthen the alignment between career planning and readiness while moving individuals through educational pathways that connect to high-demand careers, Oren said.

The coalition proposed more support for Latino outreach in Bartholomew County because it is the population segment growing most quickly, Oren said.

While coalition data shows strong improvements in educational gains within the Latino community, there is an equity gap in terms of access and support, a gap that is shrinking, Oren said.

The grant money will support the four Ivy Tech programs that already had plans to expand and will now have funding to do so, she said.

John Burnett, the coalition’s president and chief executive officer, said the coalition worked to find areas where its partners needed some seed capital for a program with the money helping them move it forward.

The programs will then become sustainable through increased student enrollment, he said.

"While the coalition collaborates and partners with organizations throughout the region, it is unique in that the coalition itself does not run the programming, Oren said. “We are the system-building part of the equation. When an opportunity comes along, we can make things happen more quickly.”

The coalition’s statistics show 32.6 percent of adults in the 10-county region have a two-year degree or above, but including industrial certifications, the attainment rate is 37.5 percent.

“That’s an awful lot of people without a credential or degree," Oren said.

Since about 60 percent of the jobs now available require a postsecondary degree, the need to move the 32.6 percent number becomes more urgent, the educators said.

Well-paying jobs in manufacturing, health care and information technology represent 40 percent of the region’s economy with high-demand skills needed, including industry-recognized credentials and associate degrees.

The region’s very low unemployment creates severe workforce challenges for local employers, leaving many jobs unfilled, according to the coalition.

“Is it feasible?” Oren asked. “We see a lot of potential from the high schools, and we are encouraging students to gain credentials and move forward to move this needle faster. We have a lot of work to do.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”About Strada Education Network” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Since 2014, Strada Education Network has invested more than $100 million in strategic philanthropy and partnerships, yielding innovative approaches to enhance student success and strengthen education to employment pathways.

Strada advances its efforts through postsecondary institutions, employers, policymakers, nonprofit organizations and other collaborative funders. Specifically, Strada looks for opportunities to create change at larger scales through efforts that:

  • Rethink and create new models for career advising
  • Pilot or scale innovative approaches to blend work and learning
  • Support learners as they transition to and through careers

For information, visit

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”About the Community Education Coalition” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

The Community Education Coalition is a partnership of business, education and community leaders whose goal is to align the region’s learning system to support economic growth and a high quality of life. Its mission is to increase the overall education attainment of the region and align the regional learning system.

For information, visit

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”About the EcO Network” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

The Mission of the EcO Network is to create a regional system of lifelong learning connecting the residents of 10 counties within southeast Indiana to better economic opportunities through education. EcO has three strategic goals, including moving residents up at least one level ion their education, training or job placement, coordinate and align a regional learning system and serve as a catalyst for regional leadership and collaboration.

For information, visit


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