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Free community college training, more help for employers part of Indiana workforce initiative

by Laura Tomaka ~ October 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Indiana is planning to invest more than $20 million over the next two years into two grant programs that prepare workers to fill existing and looming job vacancies.
Under the Next Level Jobs Initiative, the state will pay for workers to get trained at Indiana’s community colleges and help employers train their new hires.
The state currently has approximately 95,000 job openings, and by 2025, another 1 million are expected due to retirements and the creation of new positions. Many of these will be jobs that require some level of education or training beyond high school.
According to the National Skills Coalition, by 2024, 55 percent of Indiana’s jobs will be considered “middle skill” — those requiring less than a four-year college degree but calling for some degree, certification or training beyond a high school diploma. 
Two programs will serve as cornerstones of Indiana’s new initiative: the Workforce Ready Grant and the Department of Workforce Development’s Employer Training Grant Program.
Earlier this year, lawmakers approved the Workforce Ready Grant (HB 1008), which will provide free community college to adults to earn certificates in five high-growth, high-demand sectors: advanced manufacturing, building and construction, health and life sciences, information technology, and transportation and logistics. The certificate programs will be available through the campuses of the state’s two community colleges.
“Indiana employers are vocal that the lack of potential employees with the skills they need is a major inhibitor to growing their businesses,” says Rep. Todd Huston, the sponsor of HB 1008.
The $2 million annual grant is a “last-dollar program,” meaning it kicks in only after all other forms of federal and state aid have been exhausted.
The Employer Training Grant program targets the same five sectors as the Workforce Ready Grant, along with agriculture, and will help businesses cover the cost of training new employers. It will provide employers with $2,500 per worker, up to a maximum of $25,000. (The state will spend $10 million on this pilot initiative in 2018 and 2019.) 
According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, certificates are the fastest-growing credential in postsecondary education. Indiana residents have been part of that growth, with a 32 percent increase in certificates awarded over the past five years. 
“We are beginning to make progress on better using our resources to create a workforce system aligned to the needs of our economy and supporting individuals to learn the skills that are needed by employers,” Huston says. “This initiative is a positive first step.”


Article written by Laura Tomaka, staff liaison to the Midwestern Legislative Conference Economic Development Committee.