We continue to hear – almost every day – that employers are having a difficult time finding qualified, appropriately skilled workers to fill their many open positions. Training is also needed to help current employees develop the necessary skills and demonstrate readiness for higher level positions.
A less skilled, less educated labor force was once able to fill entry- to mid-level positions, but the recession and economic uncertainty has forced companies to do away with jobs or combine them with others to cut down on costs. The incumbent worker training programs companies once relied on to help support employee training and development were reduced or eliminated. Technological advances over the past several years have compounded the issue by changing the job market to require a higher skill level.
This skills mismatch poses a problem for employers and employees alike. While there is no such thing as a “free lunch,” there is free assistance for Hoosier employers looking to improve their workforces. Many, however, are not aware of the programs available. Ready Indiana, the workforce development concierge of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, serves as one way for employers to find out about programs and incentives that can help develop a skilled workforce.
An assessment and training program aligned with occupational, job-specific skills can be particularly beneficial. That’s one reason the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) offers WIN Career Readiness Courseware, which is a skills-based, online training tool used nationwide alongside the WorkKeys job profiling and assessment system.
All Hoosier employers can access the WIN courseware through their local WorkOne center – and it doesn’t cost them a dime. Employees can access WIN training at work, at home or anywhere the Internet is available to improve their skills and proficiency in 10 job-related areas:
The first three WIN modules (Reading for Information, Applied Mathematics and Locating Information) are commonly referred to as the three core assessments that make up a WorkKeys certification. While WorkKeys assessments are available for all of the modules, the three core assessments are typically what employers use to identify the skill levels (i.e. scores) a candidate needs to be successful in a particular occupation.
So how do employers know which scores are appropriate for specific occupations at their company? A second complimentary program offered through WorkOne is the WorkOne Job Opportunities and Business Services (JOBS) program, which is also free to employers. Through the JOBS Program, employers can have up to five positions “profiled” to define the job duties and scores (in the three core assessments) needed for that position at their company. Stipulations for using the service include a one-page application for employers, a hiring need and a position that pays at least $10 per hour. Utilizing the job profile in combination with the WorkKeys assessment yields a tool that is EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) compliant, reducing concerns for human resource professionals.
Another important tool offered through DWD and WorkOne is on-the-job training, a program that reimburses employers up to 50% of new hires’ wages during the first weeks (or months) of job-related training. On-the-job training is not a tax credit but an actual check sent to your company. The training/job must pay at least $10 per hour.
One main push behind on-the-job training is getting dislocated workers back into the workforce. Job openings must be posted on the state’s free employment service, Indiana Career Connect. WorkOne will recruit and screen applicants and then provide employers with qualified candidates to evaluate. Employers determine the training plan and commit to retaining the employee for at least six months upon successful completion of training.
Another specific focus of on-the-job is funding for “green” on-the-job training. Manufacturing companies that produce energy efficient products and components, or those that engage in energy efficient or environmentally-friendly processes that use fewer natural resources may qualify.
These are just a few examples of how employers can benefit from available programs and do a better job of finding or developing the employees they need so that more Hoosiers can get back into the workforce. WorkOne business service representatives are the first point of contact for employers in each region of the state. Ready Indiana helps employers connect to these and other workforce-related resources through a toll-free hotline at 866-444-1082. Ready Indiana also offers an interactive, county-by-county map tool that delivers provider contact information statewide for workforce, economic development and community college programs available at www.readyindiana.org.
Kris Deckard is the executive director of Ready Indiana, the workforce development concierge service offered by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Visit www.readyindiana.org for more information about Ready Indiana activities and initiatives aimed at providing useful, actionable information and research employers can use to improve hiring and training of employees. Kris can be reached at [email protected].