Program targets skilled workers

Employers in industries that struggle to fill jobs might get a boost in finding skilled workers as a result of a new state program designed to encourage training for and exposure to jobs that are in demand around the state.

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development calls its new grant program Skill Up Indiana. The goal is to fund business-led regional partnerships aimed at aligning education and workforce needs.

The agency in mid-February awarded $11.5 million to 13 groups spanning the manufacturing, IT and health care fields — including $3 million for projects specifically in central Indiana. On March 31, the agency announced it opened a second round of funding and will spend another $11 million on projects this year.

“Skill Up is about providing access to the right training, at the right time, and taught in the right way to increase skill attainment and career opportunities for Hoosiers,” said workforce development commissioner Steve Braun. “Aligning future employer demand with current and future workforce supply is critical for filling the 1-million-plus Indiana jobs projected to become available over the next decade.”

The programs are for regional areas of at least 200,000 people and include training for already in-demand occupations, “work-and-learn” internship-like opportunities for young people and college students, employer-specific training and “soft skill” training. State officials hope the program reduces silos in regional and local economic development efforts, where many groups — including work councils, employers, economic development agencies and schools — are trying to solve workforce challenges.

“The workforce development system is often fragmented, and there are lots of good people trying to do good work out there,” said Marie Mackintosh, an associate chief operating officer for workforce development. “Skill Up was our attempt to try to bring those groups together. What we were really looking for is systemic change in the way groups at the local level try to solve really complex workforce development issues.”

In central Indiana, the following groups received grants in the first funding round:

Carter Express and JobSource received $247,500 to train and license unemployed or low-skill workers to become CDL-licensed truck drivers.

Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, working with a variety of manufacturing and IT firms, was awarded $1.1 million to provide internships and training. It will provide 115 advanced manufacturing and logistics internships, 400 IT internships, 50 full-time jobs for new graduates, and training for 4,500 others.

Eleven Fifty Academy, working with a few top manufacturers like Eli Lilly and Co. and Roche Diagnostics, received $850,000 to teach coding skills to young people and adults, with the intention to serve about 850 students and get 298 people placed in jobs.

Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana received $475,000 to work with various employers to train 2,000 adults in “soft skills” needed for employability.

IUPUI School of Informatics received $405,495 to help K-12 students learn about companies in the IT sector and the skills needed to get jobs.

Junior Achievement of Central Indiana received $540,000 to help expand its programming to support experiential learning programs for children and work collaboratively with businesses to create a talent pipeline.

Ball State University received $158,881 to impact the local residential property management field. It intends to educate about 2,000 high school students about Ball State’s program, and enroll at least 50 students into a high school pathways program and 50 into the residential property management program at Ball State.