New Award to Recognize School-Business Partnership

????????????????????????????????????????????Collaborative efforts between educators and employers are viewed as essential to ultimate student success. The Indiana Chamber Foundation has established the School Counseling-Business Partnership Award to recognize such initiatives.

Applicants should demonstrate a high school counseling-employer partnership that has assisted students through work-and-learn experiences, career coaching or others methods of helping students’ professional growth. The winning high school counseling office will receive a $1,000 college scholarship to be given to a student of its choice who has demonstrated exceptional progress as a result of the partnership.

The School Counseling-Business Partnership Award will be presented at the 11th annual IMPACT awards hosted by Indiana INTERNnet on February 8, 2017. Nominations are due December 1.

Learn more by reading Ready Indiana’s release or contact Shelley Huffman at [email protected]

Chamber Partners With Lilly Endowment on Counseling Initiative

36107229With so much uncertainty plaguing our country, it’s a welcome relief when everyone in Indiana can play a role in an important initiative. That initiative is critical – including making sure our young people are ready for college or a career after completing their secondary education.

The effort to provide promising futures for all received a major boost with the September 30 announcement of an up to $30 million Comprehensive Counseling Initiative from the Lilly Endowment. The Indiana Chamber, through the work of its Foundation, is proud to be a partner with other organizations in assisting educators and engaging employers in this critical work.

The Indiana Chamber Foundation has supported a series of studies over the past three years to identify best practices and counseling models. Now, this new initiative will make financial resources available to help schools best meet the needs of their students.

Employers have a crucial role to play. The Indiana Chamber, with 24,000 members and investors, is in the best position to build upon the educator-employer connections that have begun to occur with more frequency in our state.

Our organization’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan calls for at least 90% of Indiana students who graduate from high school being ready for college and/or career training. With the Endowment’s Comprehensive Counseling Initiative, talented and dedicated education professionals in place and employers prepared to play an active role in meeting future workforce needs, we are ready to work toward that goal and beyond.

Learn more about Indiana Chamber Foundation research at and the Endowment initiative at

A Good Focus: Highland High School’s Parent University

Our Ready Indiana staff recently traveled to Highland High School (Lake County) to talk with parents about their children’s options post-graduation. We were so impressed the Highland guidance team brought parents in to listen to experts on different school, graduation and post-graduation topics. Sometimes we forget that students spend much more time at home than at school — and parents play a major role in students’ decisions!

In our session, we defined “middle-skill” jobs and discussed statistics showing those jobs are most in-demand in Indiana right now. We demoed and also discussed the Technical Honors Diploma. We were pleased with the interest parents had in learning about ALL the options their student has during and after high school.

We hope high schools that don’t have a similar program in place consider reaching out to parents with this information so they can help their student make informed post-graduation choices.

Ready Indiana Gets New Leader

A former Indiana Department of Education employee who has spent her career exploring successful post-secondary opportunities for students has joined the Indiana Chamber of Commerce in a newly-defined role. Amy Marsh is now the organization’s director of college and career readiness initiatives.

Marsh will oversee Ready Indiana and Indiana Skills. In addition, she will be a key part of the Indiana Chamber’s expanding workforce development efforts.

An Indianapolis native, Marsh is a graduate of Butler University with a bachelor’s in education and a master’s in school counseling.

Previously, she was an independent consultant focusing on career pathways, school counseling, career and technical education and curriculum development. She has worked for the College Board (the company that administers the SAT) as a senior educational manager in the K-12 division. Prior to that, Marsh worked for the Indiana Department of Education as the state coordinator for advanced placement, international baccalaureate and dual credit and as the assistant director of college and career readiness.

Marsh has also been a school teacher, school counselor and director of high school counseling – all at Indianapolis schools.

Understand Job Demand When Pursuing Higher Ed Options

Business Insider posted an article recently titled “I Consider Law School a Waste of My Life and an Extraordinary Waste of Money.” While this represents just one person’s experience, the narrative paints a startling picture of the realities some people face in this microcosm of higher education.

The article is a Q&A with an anonymous 28-year-old lawyer who says he incurred a “life-destroying” amount of debt by going to law school, with nothing to show for it now.

“Never in my worst nightmares did I think I’d find myself with $200,000 in debt, making less than $50,000, struggling to find job openings and to move on in my career,” he writes. “I live with my parents. I don’t have a car. I don’t go out to socialize. I don’t date. I don’t buy new clothes. I don’t buy electronics. I don’t buy much of anything.”

After he graduated from law school, he moved around small law firms for two years, even working for free as an intern at one point. Then, he worked for a $12,000 annual salary; after three months he got a raise to $24,000. Now, he works for a $45,000 salary with 15% of it going to his law school loans on an income-based repayment plan.

“There is an enormous oversupply of JDs in the United States. Low-paying jobs routinely receive hundreds of resumes from desperate law school grads,” he concludes. “I think getting a computer science undergrad or even community college degree leads to a more positive economic outcome than law school the vast majority of the time.”

Though Indiana needs more bachelor’s degree graduates too (in certain degree tracks), was created to help meet employer and employee needs in a very specific area. The greatest job demand in Indiana is in the middle skills, meaning Indiana’s economy needs many more workers with sub-baccalaureate skills and credentials (associate’s degrees, certifications, certificates). Not all degrees and credentials are created equal – we encourage all students and job seekers to understand Indiana’s labor market demand when making choices about further education. is one resource to find that information.

Because Kids Count Conference Coming Dec. 3-4

For the past 12 years, the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) has hosted the largest gathering of youth workers and educators in the Midwest. The Because Kids Count Conference is a two-day, first-class conference experience packed with educational workshops, nationally recognized speakers, a resource tradeshow and amazing networking opportunities.

Academy Award-winning actor and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation Forest Whitaker will be the keynote speaker. Furthermore, Ready Indiana Executive Director Kris Deckard will be serving on a panel about the Technical Honors Diploma and workforce credentials/industry certifications.

We hope you'll join us in Indianapolis!

Register online.

VIDEO: Ready Indiana’s Deckard Discusses Workforce Skills Gap

Kris Deckard of Ready Indiana was recently interviewed (as seen at ValpoLife, PortageLife, LaPorteCountyLife, and NWIndianaLife) about solutions to Indiana's troublesome skills gap. The interview illustrates the numerous challenges, but also highlights some of the tools being used to combat them.

JAG Indiana Program Celebrates Fifth Year

While the skills gap seems like a daunting issue to bridge for our state, we are always inspired when we get to work with programs that are taking a proactive approach to combatting it. As a representative of Ready Indiana, I recently visited JAG Indiana classes at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis to talk to students about the skills gap, their futures and how can help them as they make career choices.

JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) is a school-to-career program implemented in 700 high schools, alternative schools, community colleges and middle schools across the country and United Kingdom. JAG's mission is to keep young people in school through graduation and provide work-based learning experiences that will lead to career advancement opportunities, or to enroll in a postsecondary institution that leads to a rewarding career. This is the program’s fifth year in Indiana.

We were floored when we asked the group of students what they thought the most-requested job in Indiana was and one student immediately said “truck driver.” That was exactly right! And you can find the Top 10 List of high-demand jobs in Indiana on as well as many other data lists.

Taking the Certificate Route

Certificate programs are all the rage (that's a good thing) in higher education., a part of the Chamber's Ready Indiana initiative, has data and more on the effort to close the skills gap in our state. For a broader perspective on certificates, the Wall Street Journal recently offered the following:

Increasingly crucial to the community colleges that have long catered to students who pursue two-year degrees or get basic credits before attending four-year schools, certificate programs not only cost less on average than a year at college but they also bring higher salaries than those received by job candidates with high school diplomas.

  • Certificate programs are the fastest-growing segment of higher education, drawing younger and older students alike.
  • From 2001 to 2011, the number of certificates of one year or less awarded by public community colleges more than doubled to about 249,000 from about 106,000.
  • Overall, associate degrees at public community colleges increased over the same period, but at a slower rate — from about 443,000 to about 682,000.

The growing interest in certificates follows years of skepticism about noncredit programs, as some observers saw them as gimmicks that had little value beyond the paper they were printed on, while degrees were often regarded as guaranteed pathways to jobs.

The average annual cost of certificate programs is $6,780 at a public community college and $19,635 at a for-profit college. The push toward certificates highlights a growing emphasis on efficiency and completion rates in higher education, an approach that has gained particular traction since President Barack Obama's call for an additional 5 million graduates from community colleges by 2020.


Employee Training Tools are Accessible — and FREE

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

Kris Deckard is the executive director of Ready Indiana, the workforce development concierge service offered by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Visit 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].