From day one of my tenure as chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne and Warsaw, I promised to strengthen industry connections and meet community needs — in all of the 11 counties of northeast Indiana our campus serves.

Kosciusko County has the second largest Ivy Tech presence in our service area, and it remains vital that we continue to evolve with an eye toward ever-changing industry demands. To that end, we are embracing a new vision that will help provide our Kosciusko workforce with the training and tools it needs to drive future economic expansion.

Kosciusko County has a long history of innovation and entrepreneurship. As the birthplace of orthopedics and The Orthopedic Capital of the World®, Warsaw has developed a culture that supports and embraces innovation and drives industry advancement. Through collaboration with various constituents and also maintaining exceptional academic standards and requirements, Ivy Tech Warsaw programs give students the education they need to become a key element to propelling the engine of community growth.

With a mission of placing an ever-increasing pool of graduates into high-value, high-demand careers, Ivy Tech is reorganizing and focusing our Warsaw site to create stronger employer connections, especially in our manufacturing and healthcare programs. These are the two largest industries in Kosciusko County, and traditionally the most sought-after programs at Ivy Tech Warsaw. Our path forward is centered on creating renewed investment in these programs with community input and support.

“The Warsaw community has long relied on our Ivy Tech partnership as a critical resource of workforce training, focusing specifically on our local industrial needs,” said Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer. “Current workforce challenges dictate an even greater sense of urgency as we address the needs of our employers. The reliance on our alignment with Ivy Tech is now more critical than ever!”

After much consideration, we’ve reworked two positions that we believe will enhance student success and positively impact enrollment. One position will now be focused solely on community engagement, which will strengthen connections between education and industry needs. To enhance the prosperity of our unique and diverse communities, it is vital that the College engage and communicate effectively with the communities we serve.

“Ivy Tech is a key economic development partner throughout Indiana and the Warsaw area is no different,” said Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation CEO Alan Tio. “We look forward to finding new opportunities for industry engagement and commend Ivy Tech for enhancing their focus on advanced manufacturing and healthcare-related training in Kosciusko County.”

The second position will become a full-time faculty member in the Orthopedic and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, which will increase capacity in our manufacturing programs and impact student retention. We recognize that faculty relationships are at the core of student success. The addition of this full-time faculty member creates another touchpoint for students, another person to turn to when they’re struggling and another guide to the world of industry after graduation.

“Ivy Tech Warsaw and OrthoWorx have long been and will continue to be strategic partners in developing the next generation of workers, both in the skilled trades and beyond,” said CEO of OrthoWorx Bob Vitoux. “Skilled trades remain a critically vital component of the businesses represented in our community, and Ivy Tech graduates — especially in the Advanced Manufacturing program — are often hired by the vast number of orthopedic companies that represent The Orthopedic Capital of the World® in Kosciusko County and continues to grow across all of northeast Indiana. We look forward to continuing to build on the already strong partnership between Ivy Tech, OrthoWorx, and the ever-expanding orthopedic industry.”

With goals of making enrollment more efficient and promoting student success, we’re investing in a new Express Enrollment Center at Miller Hall. This office will streamline the enrollment process so that new and continuing students can receive assistance with applying to the college, completing financial aid, and registering for classes — all in one place.

In an effort to provide everyone in the community an opportunity to meet me and my leadership team, we will be hosting an event at Ivy Tech Warsaw’s Miller Hall (2545 Silveus Crossing) on Oct. 11 from 5 to 7 p.m. that will be open to the public. Everyone is welcome to attend, discuss our new vision for Ivy Tech’s Warsaw site, and provide input on your industry, educational, and community needs.

We strongly believe there is true need for Ivy Tech Community College in Warsaw. According to the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, only 31% of Kosciusko County citizens have earned an associate degree or higher. Higher education is beneficial for individuals by providing wage and opportunity growth, and a more educated populace is positively correlated with the economic growth of a region. Degrees and certificates offered by Ivy Tech Warsaw can be an essential component for the economic vitality of our region, and I remain dedicated to putting the college’s mission into action in Kosciusko County.

Kim R. Barnett-Johnson, Ph.D., is the chancellor for Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne and Warsaw.