Mayor helps educate MC residents, train them for jobs


Many employment processes are no longer simple, and many of the requirements for those job markets are part of an everchanging landscape.

Job seekers must come to terms with the fact they are no longer competing with just local workers, they are competing with a global workforce in a global economy.

How to close the education and employment gap in our black community has been a common discussion taking place in many communities.

Recently, a few pastors from the local minister’s alliance voiced discontent over the Michigan City Hiring Ordinance. One of the pastors used inflammatory words because he said he wanted to “cause drama.” He complained the hiring ordinance was not helping black people get hired on local construction projects. Some of the pastors also complained that the money Mayor Ron Meer’s administration has raised for local organizations “meant nothing.”

It became clear to me that some of the pastors do not understand the dynamics of how to close the education and employment gap in our black community. The mayor and his administration know, and the school administration knows, that you need a comprehensive approach that considers multidimensional factors.

When you look at the education gap, data shows that many black families have limited or no exposure to additional educational opportunities. To respond to the educational needs of many disadvantaged students, Mayor Meer and his administration raised a record-breaking amount of funding, then appropriated and contributed thousands to local organizations that specialize in servicing many families.

The funds have been used to take students on field trips because today’s students are visual learners, and field trips let them touch, feel, listen and imagine what they’re learning about. Hundreds of students for years were taken to see historical films. According to experts and educators, using movies increases student learning, enhances reading comprehension, encourages more reading, and helps develop extended problem-solving and thinking strategies. Money also went to other school programs, academic scholarships and athletic activities.

Michigan City Area Schools pound for pound can box with the best. The administration sets a learning standard of high expectations for all students, and Mayor Meer partners with and supports our schools.

We have two state-recognized elementary magnet schools, one in STEM and the other in the Arts. Barker Middle School is an Indiana Stem Certified middle school. Our high school students can choose from a variety of Academic Placement, Academic Honors, and gifted and talented courses. Students can start earning college credits in high school through the Purdue Northwest Dual Credit Program.

The MCAS Career and Technical Program includes apprenticeships, an MC Fire Academy, NIPSCO Energy Academy, construction and more. With the help of the Economic Development Corporation, Sullair, A Hitachi Group Company, donated a compressor for hands-on training.

The intent of the hiring ordinance was to continue to increase the chances of, and number of, residents working on construction projects in the city. It is a hiring ordinance for Michigan City residents, plain and simple.

Here are some steps the mayor’s administration is taking to help close the employment gap in our black community. It partnered with the state to offer Indiana Plan pre-apprenticeship programs. The Indiana Plan recruits, informs and educates eligible participants about construction apprenticeships.

The city partnered with Ivy Tech and the EDC to offer courses on getting a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Mayor Meer partnered with La Porte Mayor Krintz, EDC director Clarence Hulse, Bert Cook of La Porte’s’s Economic Development Corp., president Linda Woloshansky of The Center for Workforce Innovations, MCAS, La Porte’s Schools and manufacturing businesses to get a $677,000 Skillup 3 Grant for job training.

To date, through city fundraising and appropriations, about $40,000 has gone to the Status of African American Males Commission. Until Mayor Meer, this commission had never had a fund to draw on. Experts also emphasize the importance of a safe and orderly community, and developing partnerships to build resilient communities.

According to building healthy communities data, resilience is based on ability to utilize available resources to respond to and recover from adverse conditions. The city is doing that.

I would like to know why some ministers are partnering with individuals who are counterproductive to that progress? I think there is a better route for the ministers to take then that.

I would also like to know what the minister’s alliance is doing to close the education and employment gap in our black community? I have some suggestions. Put together a list of union halls and testing dates for bricklayers, masons, ironworkers, pipefitters, teamsters, electricians, carpenters and laborers. Make that list available to all interested parties. Ask churches to provide vans to shuttle people to job-training sessions, apprenticeship testing and worksites.

Mayor Meer continues to be an ally to Michigan City residents. He has made a herculean effort and many sacrifices to bring our community together. He continues to show his dedication through community outreach activities, social events, economic development initiatives and placemaking initiatives. Residents can depend on him to continue to keep our community at the top of the list when conducting city business.

Agnes Meer is Michigan City’s First Lady.

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