Area given grant to aid workers

February 18th, 2016

News Coverage:

February 18, 2016

Area given grant to aid workers

$1.34 million will be used on training for skilled-labor jobs

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Northeast Indiana will receive more than $1.34 million to improve workers’ abilities in the advanced manufacturing, construction and skilled trades sectors, Gov. Mike Pence announced Wednesday.

The training programs and equipment will also be used to help high school students earn professional certifications, said Rick Farrant, spokesman for Northeast Indiana Works.

Almost 500 people in the region are expected to enroll in the new training courses, with about 400 projected to complete them and earn at least one industry-recognized credential.

State officials in Indianapolis named 13 recipients of $11 million in Skill UP Indiana! grants. The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership collaborated with Northeast Indiana Works to submit Region 3’s grant request, which included more than $400,000 in matching money.

Indiana’s Region 3 comprises Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Grant, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties.

The Regional Partnership, which has a slightly different membership, has what Farrant described as the 30,000-foot view of the region and what its employers need to succeed. Northeast Indiana Works responds to those needs by administering public and private funds.

Regional Partnership officials created the Big Goal Collaborative, which calls for increasing the percentage of the region’s residents with high-quality degrees or credentials to 60 percent by 2025. That would almost double the current level of less than 35 percent, according to the economic development organization.

Officials believe the best way to attract more employers offering high-paying jobs is to create a highly trained workforce. That includes both training existing residents and attracting new, skilled workers by making northeast Indiana a more attractive place to live.

Gary Gatman, Northeast Indiana Works’ executive vice president of strategic initiatives, said his staff has met with numerous employers to get more details about the kind of skills workers need.

The five areas with the greatest demand are industrial maintenance; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; plumbing; computer numerical control machining; and welding, he said.

Plans calls for training to be offered at the region’s five Career and Technical Education centers, which are located throughout the region. Gatman said offering training in various locations will increase participation because people working full-time won’t want to drive to Fort Wayne for training, adding a two-hour commute to an already long day.

Among the items targeted for purchase with the grant is a new HVAC and plumbing program at the Fort Wayne Community Schools Career Academy at Anthis. That’s the only major investment being made in Allen County.

A CNC machining program is being expanded at Heartland Career Center in Wabash. An HVAC program is being upgraded at the Impact Institute in Kendallville. Welding programs are being added at the Area 18 Career and Technical Education Cooperative in Bluffton and the Tucker Career and Technology Center in Marion.

Steve Braun, the state’s commissioner of workforce development, accompanied Pence for the announcement.

“The Skill UP Indiana! grant program is one of the most integral steps we are taking to ensure Hoosiers … have the skills and competencies to meet employer workforce demand now and into the future,” Braun said in a statement.

Training and education programs are being developed statewide to make sure workers are prepared “to fill the over 1 million jobs Indiana is projected to have available over the next decade,” he added.

Manufacturing is the largest employment sector in northeast Indiana, employing about 80,000, and more jobs requiring specialized skills are being added.

“There are a significant number of employers,” Gatman said, “that have worker needs.”