IU South Bend is launching a new initiative this fall, with the purpose of engaging high school graduates currently taking a “gap year” directly after graduation. The pilot program, called Map the Gap, aims to keep these students on course for their next big step in life.
In cooperation with an extensive roster of industry and community leaders, IU South Bend has set up a year-long program of monthly interactions that will provide the students with a range of services and opportunities that include job-shadowing, mentor guidance, and on-campus experiences. Students will have direct access to speak with employees from a variety of industries and positions, in order to learn about their day-to-day activities and how they got where they are today. They will also be able to sit in on a college class, tour campuses, and develop a better understanding of the financial options for higher education.
“This program is an excellent example of the community collaboration IU South Bend intends on continuing with local employers, high schools, and community organizations,” says Sheila Sieradzki, director of Elkhart Community Partnerships at IU South Bend. “The Map the Gap program offers employers a structured way of interacting with the high-school pipeline of future workers and attracting a more diverse candidate pool for open positions. Simultaneously, it prepares students with a post-secondary plan to reach their goals.”
“I’m excited we are launching this one-of-a-kind, innovative program to engage high school graduates in identifying local careers and establishing a strong educational plan to reach their goals,” says Susan Elrod, IU South Bend Chancellor. “We pride ourselves in the fact that we are a major contributor to the talent pipeline in our region, to the “brain remain” equation. This program will be another way we continue to do that.”
Community partners have shown an immediate interest.
“We have over 20 mentors and 35 industry partners already engaged with Map the Gap,” Sieradzki says. “We will offer a robust career aptitude assessment that will be used by the participants and their mentors to help identify the most impactful experiences to choose during the program. After their exposure to a variety of industries, departments, and positions, the cohort will review the long-term occupational projections, expected salary, and demand for positions of interest. From there, IU South Bend will help match the desired positions to the higher education requirements.”
The program director and mentors will oversee Map the Gap’s components and activities throughout the year, monitoring each student’s progress from step to step. This will lead to the development of a SMART Goal for each participant, which tailors a plan suited for each student’s specific set of needs.
“A student can truly experience a transformation with Map the Gap,” Sieradzki says. “They can come into it not knowing what they might want to do, and they can finish it with a completely written-out one- or five-year plan, as well as the resources needed to achieve their goals.”
Other opportunities include social events during which “gappers” can meet others in the program. Workshops will be held each month for group activities. The program plans to offer classes aimed at increasing financial literacy, to help participants learn how to best manage their paychecks and save for the future, including how to plan for college expenses. The structure of the offerings is set up with much flexibility, because most of the gappers have jobs and other responsibilities that would make a strict schedule a burden.
Map the Gap also offers skills training.
“They will learn soft skills before they job shadow. Local employers have identified some in-demand skills, and many of them focus on how this generation engages in the workplace,” Sieradzki says. “The self-discovery and training that will occur during Map the Gap will allow participants to understand their individual strengths and how to work effectively in diverse group settings. These traits will serve them well whether they’re headed straight to the work force or preparing for a post-secondary program.”
To find out more about Map the Gap, visit southbend.iu.edu/map-the-gap.