A year-long national program focused on expanding work-based learning opportunities for low-income communities is underway and a team of nonprofits and state departments in Indiana is taking part. The Work-Based Learning Academy, an initiative of the National Skills Coalition in Washington D.C., includes five states and the Indiana team is comprised of the Indiana Institute for Working Families, South Bend-based REAL Services Inc., United Way of Howard County, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. The program involves advisor-led, peer-to-peer learning opportunities with the intention of participants taking their new concepts to lawmakers during future sessions of the General Assembly.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Indiana Institute for Working Families Senior Policy Analyst Andrew Bradley says "earning while learning" is continuing to catch on throughout the state, but more support is needed.
"We’re seeing it already in our K-12 schools, where we’re getting kids involved in apprenticeships and learning while they’re in the classrooms," he said. "This academy is going to take that concept and transfer it to the adult population — those who have been out of the workforce for a while — and is going to get them on the job while they’re taking part in some classroom activities and also mentorship on the job so that they become experts in their field and they’re earning a paycheck the whole time."
He says Hoosiers that are single mothers, people of color or those who haven’t previously had access to training opportunities stand to benefit the most. Right now Bradley says the process is in its early stages, determining the barriers — like childcare and transportation costs — to launching these kinds of training efforts. In addition to the advisory piece of the program, Bradley says "it gives us a way to bring people around together at the table and gives us momentum to change some of these policies so we can help fill some of these employer needs and get people back to work.
The academy, which will run through next June, also includes teams from Connecticut, Illinois, Oklahoma and Washington.