Tribune staff reports

Workforce development, On My Way Pre-K and operation of the Jackson County Learning Center will continue and likely expand in 2017.

Community leaders are again coming together to strengthen and improve education and workforce opportunities for local residents and companies.

A new agreement between the Jackson County Education Coalition and Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. provides direction, oversight and funding sources to better deliver programs in the future.

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The two groups have worked together in the past, but that relationship will be even closer going forward, according to a news release from the agencies.

“After the JCIDC strategic plan of 2015 was completed, it became apparent that an even stronger partnership with JCEC and other regional organizations would benefit everyone,” said Jackie Hill, workforce director with JCIDC. “As we have worked through the process, this structure seems to make sense.”

Under the agreement, JCIDC’s Workforce Partnership will oversee “seamless pathways” to careers at local high schools and adult education training programs, while the education coalition will continue its work with On My Way Pre-K, operation and management of the Jackson County Learning Center and exploring other educational program opportunities.

“We think this joint effort will take advantage of what each agency does best and conserve and stretch financial resources,” said Darren Wildman of Cummins Inc. Seymour Engine Plant.

Wildman serves as chairman of the education coalition’s board of directors. Cummins was instrumental in providing initial funding for the coalition in 2010. That money expires at the end of this year.

Funding for the coalition and JCIDC will continue, however, coming from a variety of partners, including Seymour Redevelopment Commission, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and Jackson County Council, along with private industry partners and area schools.

Leadership of the coalition will return to the Community Foundation of Jackson County, and its efforts will continue to be governed by its own board of directors.

The foundation was one of several community partners, including the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce and the city of Seymour, that worked together to build the learning center, which opened in 2010. The facility, located at 323 Dupont Drive, continues to offer college classes along with workforce training space for area businesses and industries.

“We remain committed to living out our motto of building better tomorrows through our support of improving educational opportunities, employment opportunities and the lives of our neighbors with the good work of the Jackson County Education Coalition, the learning center and Workforce Partnership,” said Dan Davis, president and CEO of the foundation.

Kevin Gabbard, with MainSource Bank, serves as president of the JCIDC board of directors and said the partnership is a good one for the community.

“We are happy to continue and expand this important work,” he said. “Workforce development is one of the top priorities of JCIDC.”

“It’s all about partnerships,” added Jim Plump, executive director of JCIDC. “This is bringing people together to work toward the common goals of workforce development and education.”