My name is Austin Hughes, a member of the class of 2023 at Wabash College. I help represent and work with the college in a few ways, but primarily through my roles as a varsity soccer player and as an innovation consultant within the CIBE program. Though my freshman year was an amazing experience overall, the chaos erupting from the COVID-19 virus put many things into question. I was uncertain what my summer plans would now look like, because, as a freshman in the CIBE program, the usual summer experience is a residential internship on campus. Despite things not going according to plan originally, I was still lucky enough to be placed into a virtual internship for the duration of the summer.

The internship, ultimately, is a research internship involving two main bodies: the WHIN region and 1150 Coding Academy. The WHIN (Wabash Heartland Innovation Network) region consists of 10 counties: Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Montgomery, Pulaski, Tippecanoe, Warren, and White. The WHIN region body offers various grants to different organizations who apply with their visions of how to improve local communities and workforces within the counties, as well as improve inter-county connectivity. 1150 Coding Academy is a nonprofit organization out of Indianapolis who was awarded the 2020 grant. 1150 Academy functions as an organization where under skilled workers or anyone interested can apply for their intensive courses to learn different forms of computer science, whether it be simple coding or more advanced cybersecurity and app development. 1150 Academy has a great track record with getting their graduating classes into higher-paying job positions than what they had held before. 1150 Academy wants to expand their services into the WHIN region in their efforts to improve local workforces and bridge the coding and computer science skills gaps they believe are there.

Before they can attempt to make connections with local businesses and schools in the WHIN region, 1150 Academy has partnered with Wabash College, and specifically the team I am a part of,to act as research consultants. My three-person team is headed by Professor Sara Drury, director of the WDPD program, and alsoincludes WDPD fellow and rising senior Pete Trotter. Our team’s ultimate objective is to provide a final report presentation to 1150 Academy and the WHIN region board as to what the current state of coding and computer software skills looks like in the region, what employers utilize currently in their businesses, what skillsets employers need more of in their workers, what classes schools are currently teaching in these fields, etc. Finally, our team will help provide recommendations on the most effective ways for 1150 Academy to integrate into the region and make the most impactful improvements to the workforce and economy as a whole. For the majority of the internship, my team and I have been collecting what data we can from company/school websites, statedata banks, county statistics, etc. as well as identifying persons of interest and reaching out to schedule surveys/interviews to get different perspectives on the needs of the region and its employers.

Hughes ’23

Currently, we are focused on Montgomery County as we are scheduling interviews and meeting with a variety of employers and chamber of commerce members to discuss their perspectives. We are keeping an active record of all the data we collect, and eventually our books will turn into a single, polished report that we will present back to 1150 Academy and the WHIN region board.