An Indianapolis nonprofit is looking to help unemployed and underemployed Hoosiers prepare for better career opportunities in blue collar industries such as manufacturing and logistics. Project Azul Executive Director Yecenia Tostado says the organization targets individuals who are systemically marginalized, including ethnic and minority groups, immigrants and refugees, and those with only a high school diploma or less.
The program provides career coaching, as well as barrier busting assistance, including help with rent, gas, and car repair. Tostado says education is a key component as well.
“We enroll them in training with our partners at Vincennes University as well as Purdue University to provide them with short-term, employer-aligned, in-demand training that is just 2-10 days. So, it’s really set up for an adult with competing priorities to be successful,” she said. “Once they successfully complete the training program, we also pay them a stipend for the time that they’re in the program.”
However, Tostado says the program is about more than just upskilling the participants.
“We work with a number of employer partners who provide either direct hire opportunities that are full-time and benefitted or temporary-to-permanent job opportunities. Our goal is to set individuals up with a job opportunity that is full-time, offers benefits, and has a minimum hourly wage of $15 per hour, although most of our employers provide hourly wages that are $17, $18 per hour for their minimum wage.”
Tostado says the employers Project Azul has partnered with have shown appreciation for having a pipeline of skilled talent from which they can draw.
“There’s definitely a great need for talent right now, so any opportunities I think that employers have to receive talent that has been vetted and trained is much appreciated,” she said. “But there’s definitely a need for more.”
Project Azul was launched in January 2020 and even during the pandemic, Tostado says the nonprofit has seen great interest from individuals either looking to find employment or change industries.
Tostado says the organization is only able to serve about 125 individuals annually and is looking to grow.
“We would love to be able to expand our programs to serve more individuals [and] to identify new training pathways that are employer-aligned,” she said. “We don’t train individuals just to get them a certificate and update their resume; we train individuals to make sure that they are set up for employment and then connect them to employers so they get good jobs.”
You can learn more about Project Azul by clicking here.