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Thursday, October 11, 2018 10:00 am

Governor to launch philanthropic job training coalition

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Indiana today becomes only the second state in the nation to adopt a coordinated philanthropic effort to train residents in the skills needed for future jobs.

Gov. Eric Holcomb is scheduled this morning to launch Skillful Indiana, a coalition of state government, the Markle Foundation, Microsoft Philanthropies, Walmart, the Lumina Foundation, Purdue University, Purdue Extension and the Governor's Workforce Cabinet.

The effort is based on experience gained from the Skillful program, which was started in Colorado in 2016 with a $25.8 million grant from Microsoft Philanthropies. Skillful is an initiative of the Markle Foundation.

It will be customized for Indiana, taking into account the state's existing workforce development programs, officials said in an embargoed news release.

Beth Cobert, Skillful's CEO, said during a phone interview Wednesday that her group partners with providers to transform how labor markets operate.

"We did a lot of work in thinking about what was the state that made sense to go to next," she said, adding that Indiana is more advanced than many states in addressing workforce issues.

State officials have projected 1 million skilled jobs openings in Indiana over the next decade.

Employer involvement is critical to the program's success, Cobert said.

Among the first steps are helping employers identify which skills are vital to performing a job and which aren't. For example, manufacturing jobs that deal with hydraulics require job candidates with a background in hydraulics, she said. A bachelor's degree might not be necessary and shouldn't be included as a job requirement.

Another early step is training career coaches who can help students identify which skills they have and which ones they need to qualify for desired jobs. The next step is pointing those students – or adults changing careers – to organizations that provide the appropriate training or certifications.

Career coaches typically work for nonprofits, community colleges, workforce development offices or other employers, Cobert said. They aren't on the Skillful payroll.

Organizers are still deciding how much money will be necessary to launch Skillful Indiana, considering the staff time and other resources committed by the sponsoring organizations, including Purdue, Cobert said.

For more on this story, see Friday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or go online to after 1 a.m. Friday.