Conexus team members channel education background to open students’ eyes to careers in manufacturing

The best way to learn about someone is to walk a mile in their shoes. In their roles at Conexus Indiana, Kyle Marshall and Nikki Jagow draw on their experience working in schools to reach students and let them know how rewarding a career in advanced manufacturing and logistics can be while, conversely, remaining cognizant of the various challenges schools face. Kyle and Nikki found their calling to enrich their community through education early on in their careers, and even today at Conexus Indiana their efforts and passion remain steadfast.

Kyle and Nikki worked in education for a combined 25 years, each with different paths to their education careers and in different roles in the school system.

Kyle Marshall uses education background for job at Conexus
No matter what project I’m working on, at the end of the day it boils down to children and young adults developing skills and preparing for the future, which will lead to a better tomorrow.
– Kyle Marshall

Kyle originally served as a project manager for an engineering solutions integrator before deciding to become a middle school math and science teacher in an underserved community in Indianapolis. Through his experiences in graduate school and Teach for America, he developed a love for serving his community which continued through his efforts at the J. Everett Light Career Center where he served as a manufacturing and engineering instructor.

“As a project manager, I enjoyed traveling all over North America, but I always felt like there was something missing. I wanted a career where I could make a difference in my local community and education was the vehicle I chose,” said Kyle.

Nikki, on the other hand, made her impact in education outside of the classroom. She first became involved in education as a parent and community coordinator for Indianapolis Public Schools. In that role, she brought in community partners and parents to be more involved in students’ learning. After working in the K-6 space for some time, her role evolved into the secondary space. In 2015, Nikki began working as a work-based learning coordinator for the J. Everett Light Career Center, where she saw herself as an extension of the classroom by securing curriculum-aligned work-based learning experiences that helped students develop knowledge, skills, attitudes and work habits to move successfully into the world of work.

“Empowering students was my mission – guiding them to uncover their unique post-secondary pathways. Whether it’s higher education, embarking on an apprenticeship, or securing a hands-on learning opportunity that paves the way for a rewarding career,” says Nikki.

In the next stages in their careers, Kyle and Nikki made the jump to Conexus Indiana as members of the Skills Alignment team, a team dedicated to helping individuals interested in advanced manufacturing and logistics get the skills they need to set them up for a successful career. Kyle currently serves as senior director of K-16 education, where he oversees the organization’s education and training efforts, including Student Industries, Education Readiness Grants and collaborative work with state leadership within career and technical education (CTE).

Kyle said, “I knew about Conexus Indiana as a teacher. It was tough to leave the classroom, but I knew I would get to make an impact state-wide.”

Nikki Jagow uses education background for job at Conexus
I love getting to be a resource for educators and in the advanced manufacturing industry, I get to see the work that we do makes a difference.
– Nikki Jagow

Nikki joined Conexus when the organization was working to build apprenticeship programming, and that suited her background to a tee. As senior manager of talent programs, Nikki works primarily with School-based Enterprises (SBE) around the state, utilizing her previous experience in work-based learning.

“When I go to SBEs, the students recognize me and it’s so fun to interact with them and see what they are working on,” she said. “I get to provide value to classrooms still and continue my work in their communities to partner with the local SBE since they invest in students to provide them with the skills needed in their geographic area. I speak the language [of students and educators], I understand the schools and have insights into various barriers to overcome.”  

Although currently their careers are outside of the classroom, Kyle and Nikki continue to shape young minds to this day. To them, it means no matter where they do their work, their reward is knowing they’re helping young people, especially those interested in advanced manufacturing and logistics, find direction and a path to a future career in Indiana.