Lilly invests in tech workforce

October 31st, 2016

Nextech is on a mission. A mission to increase the number of high school graduates who choose to pursue a career in technology. Our formula to reach this goal is grounded in one key principle: We cannot do it alone. We collaborate with a growing network to give students real-world, tech-sector experiences. We also rely on financial investments to provide needed resources to scale our K-12 programs, in turn helping to build the tech talent pipeline and improve local and state economies.

Eli Lilly and Company and the Lilly Foundation share a similar passion to improve STEM education and access to hands-on experiences for students. Their financial investment in the Nextech Catapult program will help ensure high school students have the experiences needed to cultivate tech and leadership skills.

We recently sat down with Jennifer Oleksiw, Information Officer for the Lily Bio-Medicines Business Unit and a Nextech Board Member, to discuss Lilly’s interest in the Catapult program, industry’s role to develop tech talent, and Jen’s motivation to get involved.

Nextech: Why did Lilly invest in the Nextech Catapult program?
Jen: Lilly and the Lilly Foundation are passionate about STEM education and improving the curriculum in our school systems, the skillsets of our teachers, and providing real-life experiences in STEM. Nextech shares similar goals. In particular, Lilly was excited to sponsor the Catapult program as it is a truly immersive experience for high school students.

Nextech: What role should the tech industry take to develop talent for long-term workforce needs, beyond immediate hiring needs?
Jen: We all need to participate in developing the next generation workforce. If we focus on STEM alone, Indiana will have demand for 123,000 STEM-related jobs by 2018. Roughly 19,000 jobs for technical positions are already posted each year in Central Indiana, and this number is only expected to grow.

Nextech: How can we address workforce development and prepare students for those jobs?
Jen: Our work must be directed at fixing the root cause of the issue. We must: equip educators with the right content; ensure the right curriculum is in place and enforced; and provide the right experiences for students to see the potential of what they can do.

Nextech: What progress has Nextech made to reach its goal and address the gap between tech talent and tech jobs?
Jen: Nextech has accomplished much in just a few years. I applaud the multi-faceted approach it is taking to truly increase the number of Indiana students who choose to pursue a career in technology upon graduation. We address the Nextech mission end-to-end by working with employers on what skills and qualifications they need now and in the future. We also work with the government and administrators on how to enforce and measure a K-12 technology curriculum. Additionally, we offer “real-life” work experiences by connecting high school students with Indiana employers after school and via summer internships.

Nextech: What prompted you to get involved in these efforts?
Jen: I am passionate about growing the next generation of tech pioneers. Nextech’s mission to enhance K-12 curriculum to include technology courses and equip educators with the right content knowledge really connected with me. We must have the right foundation in place while working to demystify “coding” so we can increase the number of Indiana students pursuing careers in technology! From a professional perspective, technology is changing rapidly, and new jobs are being created daily. If we ignore this issue, by 2025, 45 percent of tech jobs in Indiana will lack qualified candidates. This will have a dramatic impact to Lilly as well as small, medium and large companies throughout Indiana.

Nextech: Tell us your favorite part of being involved with Nextech.
Jen: Seeing the faces of students when they have collaborated as a team, applied basic coding skills and then solved a real life problem. It is priceless.

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