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Richmond pilot program aims to help high school students with workforce development

8 people stand in front of a wall labeled Co-Lab at Earlham College
Mirai Possibility is the result of a partnership between Earlham College students and leaders from Northeastern Wayne Schools and Tiedemann-Bevs Industries.

A pilot program created by Earlham College students aims to help high school students who are not college-bound prepare for jobs. The partnership involves Northeastern Wayne Schools in Fountain City, Ind., just north of Richmond, and textiles and casket interior manufacturer, Tiedemann-Bevs.

Five high school juniors and seniors will work with mentors from Mirai Possibility, the program created by Earlham students. They'll learn work-related skills they'll need when they move on to internships at Tiedemann-Bevs.

The interns will be selected in the fall, go through the training in early 2023 and the internships begin next summer, according to David Huang, a rising senior at Earlham and one of the students who created Mirai Possibility. Mirai is a Japanese word meaning "future."

"What we essentially look to do is to help upskill the workforce in Wayne County, particularly by focusing on career development courses and internship experiences for high school students in the area," says Huang.

He's hoping the program is a success and will branch out to more local high schools.

Participating students will follow two tracks.

"Number one is kind of soft skill development, but with a combination of hands-on experience ... at the local companies. This is the track for students that are looking to join the workforce fairly early on right after high school," says Huang. "We have another track that focuses on soft scope development, but with a combination of marketing that is catered towards students that might have an interest in going into higher education right after high school."

Those "soft skills" involved communication, leadership skills, problem-solving and some machinery basics.

Andy Lawrence, president and CEO of Tiedemann-Bevs, likes that the program will help students develop skills needed for modern manufacturing jobs. He says it's an opportunity, too, to rebrand manufacturing.

"Our manufacturing is not the old school, hard, hard, long day in manufacturing. We have a climate controlled facility; we have a great environment, great culture," he says. "I think this is really an opportunity to go in and show people coming out of high school that you have more options to make a good career and a good living."

He sees it as a benefit to all of Wayne County as well, not just his company.

"One of the things that we're all seeing — myself and other business leaders — is a gap in some of the workforce development; mainly on soft skills, team-building, some of those things that don't really get touched on a lot coming out that can make a huge impression on kids, especially their first part of their career," he says. "I think this program is going to be able to help fill that in significantly."

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.