There’s no denying Indy’s economic momentum. Metro unemployment is trending below the state and nation, and the nine-county region continues to earn the confidence of growing companies: The Indy Partnership reports 65 successful relocation and expansion projects through July – 17 more deals than the first seven months of 2016 – attracting more than 8,000 new jobs (up 60% from ‘16) and $850M in new investment (more than double last year).
But there’s a challenge behind the thousands of job commitments. Many local workers are unprepared to take advantage of a higher-skill job market; at the same time, employers in industries like manufacturing, health and life sciences and technology struggle to find much-needed qualified workers.
The Indy Chamber’s legislative agenda has made education and training a priority, because upward mobility and economic growth rely on a job-ready workforce – every post-secondary credential earned here means a bigger paycheck and a stronger business climate.
That’s why the Chamber endorsed and advocated for the program recently introduced by Governor Holcomb as ‘Next Level Jobs.’
What’s Next Level Jobs?
Next Level Jobs encourages working-age Hoosiers to enroll at no cost in more than a hundred programs at Ivy Tech Community College or Vincennes University that prepare them for high-demand careers in some of the state’s fastest-growing industries – manufacturing, health and life sciences, and technology (the sectors making Indy a metro leader in ‘advanced industry’ job creation, according to the Brookings Institution) along with logistics, business services and construction.
Interested applicants – any resident with only a high school degree or some college willing to commit to a certificate program – start by registering and answering a few questions that match their interests to sought-after skills and occupations at NextLevelJobs.org. (The state also offers support and resources for those interested in careers outside of these high-growth areas, at www.LearnMoreIndiana.org.)
Tuition for these adult learners will be paid through Indiana’s ‘Workforce Ready’ grants program, passed by the General Assembly earlier this year; the Indy Chamber supported this funding as part of our workforce development agenda.
“Indiana’s unemployment rate has reached historic lows, and we currently have about 95,000 job openings around the state. Now more than ever, our state needs to ramp up efforts to prepare Hoosiers for the jobs available today—and for the one million more we expect over the next decade,” Holcomb said in rolling out the program in August. “Next Level Jobs will drive our efforts to meet that demand and will put hardworking Hoosiers in high-need, high-wage careers.”
Growing employers in the same sectors can apply for a companion grant that helps offset their costs for training new employees in these fields. This Employer Training Grant program will provide up to $2,500 per new employee to qualifying companies that train and retain new hires. DWD will launch a pilot of the grant for 2018 and 2019, paid for with $10 million in Career and Technical Education Innovation and Advancement Funds. Businesses can also get more details and apply at NextLevelJobs.org.
Indy’s Next Level
Almost 640,000 adults in the Indy Region (roughly half our workforce) has a high school diploma or some college but no degree – making them eligible for Next Level Jobs. By 2024, the region will need to fill more than 350,000 job openings to keep up with new growth, retirements and replacements. Most of these positions will require training beyond high school (including 70% of the advanced industry positions that are at the core of our top economic development strategy).
“A strong economy is driven by a strong, skilled workforce,” noted Mark Fisher, the Indy Chamber’s Chief Policy Officer. “That’s why we’ve advocated for education and workforce investments from the very earliest pre-K learning opportunities to incumbent worker training – Next Level Jobs helps strengthen this skilled talent pipeline.”
Rethinking Economic Development
“Human capital is the heart of Accelerate Indy,” added Fisher, referencing the Indy Chamber’s regional economic strategy unveiled a year ago. “We need a strategy that attracts new workers to the region, but also invests in homegrown talent.”
Fisher explained that career-focused training was an important part of a blueprint for a growing, inclusive economy that allowed people and employers opportunities for success.
“Next Level Jobs targets our fastest-growing industries and takes away a major financial hurdle for adults who want to upgrade their skills,” he said. “There are many more hurdles we’re still working on – transit access, affordable housing, health and social service needs…we haven’t lost sight of the need for a comprehensive approach.
“But Governor Holcomb’s Next Level Jobs initiative is a significant step forward,” Fisher finished. “We urge people and employers here in Indy to take advantage of this new state resource to help today’s workers prepare for tomorrow’s careers.”
Learn more at NextLevelJobs.org.