INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Department of Workforce Development's (DWD) employer-driven Skill UP Indiana! Program is about to enter round three. At stake over a two-year period is a pool of up to $20 million in grant funding that is being made available to financially support Innovation Networks to provide more and better avenues for skill-specific training and certification.
"We often hear from employers who tell us they cannot find qualified candidates to fill open high-wage, high demand positions," said Steve Braun, DWD Commissioner. "The goal of Skill UP Indiana! is to encourage regional networks and industry partnerships that meet these employer needs through training, education and certification."
The grant application process will include three steps. Step I (planning phase application) has a deadline of July 14 for interested groups to submit an application. Step II (planning phase implementation) will run from July 17 to Oct. 1. During this time applicants participate in DWD-led employer advisory groups in which DWD data will be used to validate demand and identify local business or industry challenges and issues. Finally, Step III (final proposal), with a still-to-be determined deadline, will be the submission of the final proposal by the network or partnership in which they create industry-focused solutions based on information received and lessons learned during the planning process. Successful grant applicants will be announced in early 2018.
The challenge for the state and its employers in meeting needs is significant, but the opportunities for potential employees are endless. DWD data indicates that 1 million-plus jobs across the state will need to be filled over the next decade. Thousands of these jobs representing more than 100 occupations are projected to require some type of certificate or certification in addition to a high school diploma. That's where Skill UP comes in.
"A majority of the more than 1 million jobs will not need a college degree, but rather further training and certification beyond high school currently either not available or hard to find," said Mike Barnes, DWD Associate Chief Operating Officer for Employer Engagement. "Skill UP was created to fill this gap by using employer-driven data to create new learning and development approaches for the most highly-desired skill sets. Innovation Networks enable stakeholders to collaborate and find solutions."
The program was originally launched in 2015 but its new structure now encourages the formation of Innovation Networks, which include Sector Partnerships. Innovation Networks consist of employers, educators, economic and workforce development groups and other community organizations that come together to develop skills of students and adults in a local market. Sector Partnerships bring together multiple employers from a single industry along with educators, economic and workforce development groups and community organizations to develop workers for that industry.
Each grant will vary in amount and depend on resource needs, anticipated outcomes and engagement levels of the group's participants. Some of the outcomes DWD seeks when evaluating grant applications are an understanding of employer demands, ensuring that training programs meet employer needs, providing easily-accessible training programs, establish shared resources, and establishing internships, apprenticeships and other forms of stackable training.
One early Innovation Network participant was Grote Industries based in Madison, Ind.
"The Skill UP Indiana program from the Department of Workforce Development is a great opportunity for our community, and I encourage businesses throughout the state to take advantage of the program and become a partner," said Grote Industries owner Dominic Grote. "We piloted an innovation network group in Madison through our Envision Jefferson County effort, and it has set the stage for us to make significant progress in developing the workforce we need for both now and into the future. Skill UP will have a major impact on the state's talent pipeline in the coming years."
More information about Skill UP Indiana including the grant application form and grant guidelines can be found at http://www.in.gov/dwd/skillup.htm.