The right skills could open doors

January 30th, 2015

News Coverage:

The right skills could open doors

Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015 11:00 pm

Many of us have been focused early in 2015 on our New Year’s resolutions – things such as losing weight, quitting smoking, budgeting more wisely, or just working to become a better person. Certainly, they are all terrific resolutions worth pursuing.

But it’s also a good time to reflect on the growing career advancement opportunities that exist in northeast Indiana – opportunities, for example, that are available in advanced manufacturing for workers who can weld, machine or maintain industrial equipment. Equally compelling career opportunities also exist for patient‐care workers in health care, workers who interact with technology systems and workers in the skilled construction trades.

Regardless of how the resolution is framed, the good news is that for workers willing to upgrade their knowledge and skills, there are plenty of training opportunities available in the region – opportunities that can help the region move closer to its Big Goal of increasing the percentage of adults with high‐quality credentials or degrees to 60 percent by 2025.

Increasingly, northeast Indiana employers are looking for people with the “right skills” in the ever‐competitive marketplace and that leads to another proposed New Year’s resolution: Seeking training and education offerings that match the skill requirements of the region’s employers. This can apply to people who find themselves out of work, although the focus here is on individuals in the work force.

The resolution could take on a number of forms. It might be: “I am going to take a class and improve my skills.” Or perhaps, “I am going to finish the degree I started years ago but never finished.” Or, “I am going to ask my employer what skills I need to move up in the organization and then I am going to find a way to acquire those skills.”

Many employers, for example, offer tuition assistance programs that cover the costs of job‐relevant courses. Additionally, Ivy Tech Community College Northeast, Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne, Freedom Academy and several other institutions in the region offer coursework in a wide range of career areas.

Several institutions offer coursework in computerized‐numeric control (CNC) machining and advanced welding that can be taken if a worker is looking to develop industrial skills in search of the next career opportunity. Similarly, many of the institutions offer courses in accounting, computer‐aided design, electronics, health care management, and in a range of specific software and technology programs. And, if the needed course is not available on a campus, many of the courses are now available evenings and online so that the courses can be taken at the convenience of the worker.

People should also consider reaching out to a WorkOne Northeast career center. There is a center in every northeast Indiana county. WorkOne Northeast offers a range of services that can help workers assess their skills, develop a training plan to improve their skills and make arrangements to take planned courses. The key to these services is the development of a training plan that identifies the specific skills that are needed, the steps required to obtain them, and the financial investments required to secure them. And, for workers meeting specific criteria, WorkOne Northeast has funding available that can be used to help offset a portion of the cost of training.

Through programs such as On‐the‐Job Training and Skill‐Link, Northeast Indiana Works and WorkOne Northeast have assisted hundreds of workers in improving their skills and accessing higher‐skill career opportunities, often at a reduced cost or no cost to the employer. As these workers complete training programs, employers have been able to promote the workers, making it a win‐win for both the worker and the employer. Often, the training, which may be certification‐based, leads to increased wages.

The bottom line is that, in the midst of rapid workforce technological advances and changing employer needs, workers need to be proactive and nimble in charting their careers. To that end, it would be prudent to resolve to upgrade skills or explore new ones that meet the current and future needs of employers and help northeast Indiana reach its Big Goal.

Gary Gatman is executive vice president for strategic initiatives at Northeast Indiana Works, a nonprofit that oversees the region’s WorkOne Northeast career centers and state and federally supported adult education programs.