City’s workforce development practices offer great example

Indiana needs more workers with greater education and skill levels to meet the needs of employers and fill job openings.

That’s why the state last year started its Skill Up Indiana! program, which pays students to enroll in it to learn skills and certifications needed in the manufacturing industry.

It’s also why a 45-member state delegation led by Gov. Eric Holcomb stopped in Columbus on Feb. 16 during a three-day workforce development tour to learn best practices in communities.

Top Indiana officials in the executive branch, legislative branch and in education fields got an up-close at how Columbus has organically created a workforce development program that aligns the educational system to workforce needs.

The state is considering local best practices for possible roll-out on a larger scale. What the delegation observed and heard in Columbus left them with a lot to like and strongly consider.

“This is our to-do list,” said an impressed Holcomb.

The guests heard students explain pathways to high-tech careers in engineering, computer-aided design and robotics, through internships and school-to-work programs in high school and college that included working with local manufacturers, some of which were helping pay tuition to aid their transition into careers.

Delegation members learned about externships offered by local manufacturers for local educators, so they can see firsthand the work the companies do, the types of jobs they have and understand the companies’ workforce needs and the skills required for the jobs. Doing so allows the educators to tailor instruction in their classes accordingly.

The state officials also learned abut the Community Education Coalition’s EcO (Economic Opportunities through Education) Network, its regional structure among 10 south-central Indiana counties, its support from regional manufacturing partners and collaborative efforts to increase residents’ education attainment levels.

Holcomb and the other delegation members also learned about CivicLab, a program of the Community Education Coalition that teaches a stakeholder engagement process to achieve a larger community goal.

CivicLab was chosen by the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation to assist in its nationwide effort to meet a goal of 60 percent of Americans attaining high-quality, postsecondary degrees or credentials by 2025.

The fact that a large number of state officials, most notably the governor, spent a large portion of their day in Columbus to learn what the community has done to improve and align education to meet workforce needs speaks highly of the infrastructure local stakeholders have created and what they have achieved.

It’s also an indication that the Columbus community is on the right path and has something in place that could also benefit other communities across the state.

That’s something of which the Columbus community can be proud.

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