A Workforce Way Forward

Right before their eyes were keys to future economic development. For members of the New Castle Henry County Economic Development Board Wednesday morning, those keys were not available land drawings or tax abatement incentive documents. They were young people displaying true talent.

Shenandoah FFA students served as guest speakers for Wednesday’s monthly meeting. Carly Allen, Jakob Chambless, Lauren England, Olivia Timmons and Lucas Wuestefeld treated board members to a lively discussion about agriculture issues.

Their presentation not only served as practice for future competitions, but also as a timely reminder of the value a skilled and educated workforce brings to a community.

Timing of the Shenandoah presentation was appropo, coming at the same meeting in which the board learned of workforce development awards that will benefit Ivy Tech students in Henry County. Workforce development is one of the biggest goals EDCs across the state have now. Estimates are Indiana will need to fill 1 million Hoosier jobs in the next 10 years.

Another report shared with board members included a Purdue University study showing four of northeast Indiana’s 11 counties outperformed the state by meeting or exceeding a 25-year national growth trend for educational attainment.

The report by Purdue’s Center for Regional Development, “People and Places: The Nature and Location of Talent in Indiana,” said Indiana failed to keep pace with other U.S. states between 1990 and 2015 in the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education.

But the good news locally is that education and workforce opportunities are on the verge of improving, thanks to The Indiana Department of Workforce Development’s Skill Up Indiana! Program. EDC President and CEO Corey Murphy shared news of a $1.28 million grant awarded to the ELITE Network. ELITE stands for Employer Led Innovative Training Experience.

What does that mean for Henry County?

Employers representing manufacturing and healthcare – including Henry Community Health – have committed to adopting innovative workforce development strategies that will help develop, retain and improve the opportunities in those sectors. Strategies will include co-ops and internships for students, work-based learning strategies and new approaches to apprenticeships.

Also of local significance is the fact The ELITE Network has asked Ivy Tech Community College to be its intermediary and to help coordinate the application efforts. The application involved seven counties (Henry, Randolph, Wayne, Union, Fayette, Rush and Shelby.)

Kim Thurlow, Ivy Tech Workforce Consultant in Richmond, helped coordinate the application.

“This is so humbling,” Thurlow said. “The agency partners and employers engaged in this process have been so creative. They realize we have to do something different in East Central Indiana to improve long term impacts for our workforce, and our communities. I’m excited to see their ideas implemented and to be a part of the effort.”

The Economic Development officials in Henry, Fayette, Randolph, Rush, Shelby, Union and Wayne counties jointly stated, “The Skill Up award allows local communities to support ELITE network employers with talent solutions. Linking our efforts together, we are pleased to serve as a spearheading partner for this grant and realize that collectively we can move our region forward.”

In other business, EDC board members listened to and answered questions from guests at the meeting concerned about wind farms. They were told the same message that’s been repeated at recent public meetings, that there are currently no wind farm projects approved to proceed in Henry County.

Source: The Courier Times, May 13, 2018

– Story by Darrel Radford of The Courier-Times (May 13, 2018). Read more local stories at www.thecouriertimes.com

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