MICHIGAN CITY – The goal of Michigan City's Promise Scholarship was to help local students gain the skills needed to be part of today's changing workforce – and to give them some incentive to return home with those talents.

It seems to be working. The Promise Scholarship was recently named one of the “Best Practices in Talent Retention Strategies” by Ady Advantage, an economic development, site selection and marketing consulting company.

The scholarship was cited after a Midwest Talent Strategy Inventory was conducted by the Wisconsin firm, and the program was recognized at the Mid America Economic Council Best Practices Conference in Milwaukee. A total of 85 communities across the Midwest submitted initiatives; 10 were interviewed; and the top 5 were invited to the conference to receive the award.

"My administration recognizes that one of the most important components businesses and manufacturing are looking for is a talented and job-ready workforce," said Mayor Ron Meer, who initiated the scholarships in 2017.

"Michigan City will continue to utilize innovative ways, like the Promise Scholarship, to prepare our residents with skills necessary for high-wage jobs in today’s employment market."

Students are also required to meet a community service requirement, "with the goal of engaging them in the community and making it more likely they will live and work in Michigan City,” Meer said.

Janet Ady, president and CEO of Ady Advantage, calls such programs crucial.

“The talent shortage is real, and it is only going to get worse for the foreseeable future,” she said. “What started a decade ago as a skills gap has turned into a simple shortage of bodies as the Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce faster than the Millennials can replace them.

"We’re now at a point where there are more open jobs available than there are unemployed people in the workforce to fill them, and I believe this trend won’t peak for years,” Ady said.

“As a result, companies are making workforce availability their number one priority in choosing siting locations. Economic developers know they can’t just sit on the sidelines and hope that schools and workforce agencies will solve this problem for them. They are moving out of their comfort zones and building partnerships with other public and private entities to compete effectively for the dwindling talent resource,” she said.

She called Michigan City's program "a unique scholarship" that will help train and retain talent.

“Talent retention and attraction in our workforce are going to be keys to both retaining and attracting livable wage companies to Michigan City," said Clarence Hulse, executive director of the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City.

Money from a Promise Scholarship can be applied to tuition and fees, including laboratory, student activity and registration fees. The amount is determined by the number of consecutive years the student attends MCAS. The student must also live in a home owned by a parent/guardian within corporate city limits.

Ady said the Promise Scholarship will be added to Ady Advantage’s Talent Strategy Database, "which already contains over 200 talent initiatives the firm has encountered in its work with economic development clients throughout the country.

“Our goal is to help communities stay ahead of the curve on all aspects of economic development strategy. When it comes to talent issues, communities want to know what is working in similar places...," she said

"EDCMC is excited about this recognition of Michigan City’s creativity and thrilled to be part of the initial team that introduced and brought the concept to fruition,” Hulse said. "We are already seeing dividends of the program by an increase of students in Michigan City Area Schools, home sales increasing citywide, and more families moving into the Michigan City corporate city limits.”

For more information, visit michigancitypromise.com.

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