Work Force Board Lands Big Grant

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The Region 4 Workforce Board has received a $7.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The funding will allow the organization, which serves 12 Indiana counties, to launch a 48-month program to help long-term unemployed workers train for and secure manufacturing jobs.

November 7, 2014

News Release

Lafayette, Ind. -- The Region 4 Workforce Board, which serves 12 Indiana counties, has received a grant of nearly $7.6 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to launch a 48-month program to help those who are unemployed—especially those without work long-term—learn new skills and secure manufacturing employment.

Roger Feldhaus, executive director of Region 4 Workforce Board, made the announcement at a news conference Friday, November 7, held at Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. "Our goal is send 800 unemployed people from the 12 counties we serve back to work," he said. "And not to just any job, a part-time job or short-term job, but to viable, rewarding careers in manufacturing."

The program, named Rapid Reemployment for Advanced Manufacturing Positions, or RAMP, will provide training for manufacturing jobs and other benefits. "Our nation is still recovering from a recession that was indeed deep and long," Feldhaus said. "We know that the unemployed workers in our region are eager to get back to a job. Their talents and qualities have been wasted too long. But their skills have perhaps become somewhat dated as manufacturing processes have adopted technological advancements. RAMP, we believe, is the answer."

Training will be done by Ivy Tech Community College and Purdue University; details are now being finalized and will be announced soon. Recruiting events will begin in March 2015.

"This is quite the news," said West Lafayette mayor John Dennis. "Quite a sizable grant. Quite an undertaking. Funding of $7.5 million doesn't fall in our laps every day. Nor did this. Some smart people asked the right questions and came up with a great plan with all kinds of potential."

Deborah Waymire, chief operations officer for Region 4 Workforce Board, spelled out the program's scope. "This program is specifically aimed at bringing those who are unemployed back into the workforce—85 percent will be people who have been unemployed for an extended time, at least 27 consecutive weeks or more of unemployment since 2007," Waymire said. "Or they will be people who are underemployed who lost their jobs during or after the recent recession and have been able to find only episodic, short-term or part-time employment since then."

The remaining 15 percent will be others who are currently unemployed. "RAMP will involve training and a host of support services that will be critical in helping individuals participate and succeed in job training, preparing them for today's jobs," she said.

"More than a class or a bunch of classes, RAMP will offer short-term, long-term and on-the-job training for in-demand jobs," Waymire said. "But it goes way beyond that. Some of the potential benefits for those who participate will include transportation assistance, child care or dependent care, tutoring, job coaching and internships.

"Stipends and incentives while participating in training and internships will be offered, as well as placement with participating employers," she said. "At the same time, RAMP will help our region's industries sustain their operations and grow as they tap the talents of those who complete the program."

Calling the news "amazing," Lafayette mayor Tony Roswarski said, "The Midwest work ethic has long been a hallmark here. People here appreciate the opportunity to put in a good day's work. With RAMP, those who have been out of work will again have the sense of dignity and purpose only a job can supply, and they'll bring that work ethic back into the workplace."

Five industries partnered in submitting the grant application, agreeing to participate in various ways in the program. Lafayette manufacturers are Caterpillar Corp. Large Engine Center, Kirby Risk Corp., Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. and Wabash National Corp. Chrysler Group LLC in Kokomo is the fifth. Others, too, are expected to join the program.

"The best ideas of the members of the concept team have been molded into an all-encompassing approach to solving unemployment while helping industries fill jobs," said Sascha Harrell, human resources supervisor at Caterpillar Inc. "I believe RAMP is going to be a blue-ribbon, get-back-to-work success."

Kirby Risk president Doug Mansfield said, "It is true that many industries are challenged to find skilled, ready-to-work employees. And it is true that there are many unemployed residents who want to be contributing workers. RAMP is pairing the two groups, and with the forethought that went into the program and training design and the partnership approach to carrying it out, I predict we'll see workers win and industries grow."

Among the roles of industry are to participate in professional development and curriculum development, help design and implement the program, provide ongoing technical assistance and create career pathways for program participants.

The employers will also provide resources, such as equipment, mentors, on-the-job-training and internships; help train and prepare worksite supervisors; and give preferential consideration to qualified program participants. They'll also provide feedback on the program, which will help in modifying it and planning future efforts.

"When we were approached about helping formulate a coordinated training program, it was an easy yes," said Bradley Rhorer, manager of human resources-associate development at Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. "Industry knows what it needs when workers hit the plant floor, so it's our task to pitch in on creating the different and comprehensive aspects of the program."

Wabash National "proudly and eagerly supports the RAMP program," said Robert Nida, vice president for organizational development. "It addresses all the needs people who are unemployed have—financial, education, hands-on skill development and encouragement. As an industry partner, we will make sure that the jobs we offer are rewarding and secure, with the kinds of opportunities that will nurture loyalty and encourage advancement."

Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh hailed the announcement. "The work that went into developing the RAMP program so it could get funding was extensive. I appreciate those who huddled together to make this happen, and I look forward to seeing its successes."

Lauren Davis, economic development program manager at Greater Lafayette, said, "This is yet one more example of how our community works cooperatively—industry, government, education. When it comes to bettering all aspects of our quality of life, this community excels at working together."

"We are honored by the affirmation of our proposal, challenged by the task ahead and eager to begin this carefully considered and formulated program," Feldhaus said.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Labor is through its Ready to Work Partnership Initiative. The grant covers 48 months of operations for the local Rapid Reemployment Advanced Manufacturing Positions (RAMP) program, including outreach, recruiting, training, support services and placement. This grant is one of just two awarded in Indiana; the other was $8.4 million to EmployIndiana in Indianapolis. In all, the federal initiative funded 23 grants in 20 states, totaling $170 million.

Established July 1, 2011, the Region 4 Workforce Board coordinates workforce development efforts in collaboration with economic development and education in 12 Indiana counties: Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Howard, Miami, Montgomery, Tippecanoe, Tipton, Warren and White. Its mission is to be an innovative problem solver that promotes and supports skills development and life-long l