While there is no such thing as a "free lunch," there is free assistance for Hoosier employers looking to improve their work forces. Many, however, are not aware of the number of programs available.
We continue to hear – almost every day – that employers are having a difficult time finding skilled workers to fill their many open positions. But without the necessary skills – such as reading, applied mathematics, writing, listening, teamwork and other soft skills – applicants are repeatedly turned down and jobs go unfilled. Training is also needed to help current employees develop these skills and demonstrate readiness for higher level positions.
A labor force without those abilities was once able to fill those positions, but the recession forced companies to do away with those jobs or combine them with others to cut down on costs. The incumbent worker training programs companies once relied on to help support employee training and development were reduced or eliminated. Technological advances over the past several years have compounded the issue by changing the job market to require a higher skill level.
This skills mismatch poses a problem for employers and employees alike. But there are potential solutions for organizations across the state - and often free of charge. Ready Indiana, the workforce development initiative of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, serves as one way for employers to find the tools they need to develop a skilled workforce.
An assessment and training program can be particularly beneficial. That’s one reason the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) offers WIN Career Readiness Courseware, which is a skills-based, online instructional tool aligned with WorkKeys (a national job profiling and assessment system).
Employees can use the courseware to improve their skills and increase WorkKeys scores. And employers can identify in job postings what scores the positions require, making it a skill builder for employees and a skill assessment tool for employers. All Hoosier employers can access the WIN courseware by contacting their local WorkOne center – and it doesn't cost them a dime.
A second helpful assessment tool is the WorkOne Job Opportunities and Business Services (JOBS) program, which is also free to employers. The JOBS Program screens applicants, saving time and resources for the employer. Stipulations for using the service include a one-page application for employers, a hiring need and a position that pays at least $10 per hour.
DWD also offers an on-the-job training (OJT) program that reimburses employers up to 50 percent of the new hires' wages during the training. One main push behind on-the-job training is getting dislocated workers back into the workforce more quickly. Stipulations include the job must pay at least $10 per hour and all job openings must be posted on the state’s free employment service, Indiana Career Connect.
Employers provide the training with the help of a plan developed with a WorkOne specialist. If an employer can make the process work within its hiring timeline, it can have a big impact.
Deborah Jones, human resource manager for Rea Magnet Wire Company in Fort Wayne, relays the company's success with using the training.
"We were in the process of hiring for an upturn in business and we utilized the on-the-job training program to enable us to have reimbursement for training dollars. Our training takes 60 to 90 days as the jobs are fairly complex, so it's a big commitment from a cost standpoint," she explains.
Due to the recession, Rea Magnet had not added staff in some time. The company's local WorkOne representative explained how the on-the-job training worked and the manufacturing company jumped on board. Jones affirms that any company that is eligible to use on-the-job training should do so. "It's available. If your situation and the folks you want to hire qualify, then certainly (take advantage of it)."
The on-the-job training reimbursement funds from the state are available at least through 2012. The state is also searching for companies that are eligible for "green" on-the-job training. Manufacturing companies that produce energy efficient products and components, advanced drive train vehicles or those that engage in energy efficient or environmentally friendly production processes that use fewer natural resources may qualify.
These are just a few examples of how employers can start solving the skills mismatch and more Hoosiers can get back into the work force. WorkOne business consultants in each region of the state are important contacts for employers. Ready Indiana offers an interactive county-by-county map search that quickly accesses the contact information for consultants in each county and region.
Check out www.in.gov/dwd or
www.readyindiana.org for more information on the available training and assessment tools.
Kris Deckard is executive director of Ready Indiana.
To search the archive of Perspectives articles, go to the Search page