Leading the way to better jobs

Surveys of local industries conducted by Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. revealed employees’ leadership and communication skills as high priorities.

The industries said they would like prospective employees to come in with those skills, rather than having to teach them.

JCIDC and Jennings County Economic Development are joining forces with the help of Administrative Resources association to bring a workforce development program back to the area.

The two counties offered a similar program about eight years ago, but funding was only available for a year-and-a-half.

The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs recently announced it is offering grant dollars geared toward workforce development. ARa has been tasked with applying for a grant in hopes of revitalizing the program in Jackson and Jennings counties.

Eight grants, up to $250,000, will be awarded statewide.

Given the success of the program in 2007, it would be good to get it going again, said Jackie Hill, workforce director with JCIDC.

“It was very successful. We trained over 300 people in the county,” Hill said of the Management Supervisory Institute. “Employers have continually asked for that back. We just haven’t had the funding to do that. It’s an excellent program. It’s one that has been requested, so I have no problem that we’ll have it filled with both Jackson and Jennings counties.”

The two counties are teaming up because a regional approach was recommended in applying for the grant.

“We’ve had success in both counties. It made sense to combine those efforts,” Hill said.

“There’s some inflow and outflow between the two counties as far as workers, so we thought that would just be a natural fit, as well,” Trena Carter with ARa added. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1,801 Jennings County residents commuted to work in Jackson County each day in 2013, and 473 Jackson County residents worked in Jennings County.

Hill and Carter recently shared their intent to apply for the grant with the three Jackson County commissioners because they would be applying on behalf of the county. There is no cost to the county, but they needed approval since it’s a county initiative, Hill said.

The grant proposal is due Friday. If approved, the full application will be due Oct. 23.

If $250,000 is awarded, it would require a 20 percent local match of $50,000 — up to $37,500 in-kind and $12,500 cost divided between the two counties.

Hill said she expects the grant recipients to be announced in mid-November. If Jackson County is approved, she said the goal is to have the first classes offered starting in April.

Classes would be conducted at the learning centers in Jackson and Jennings counties. The economic development agencies would find postsecondary providers to teach the classes.

Each agency would serve as the program coordinator in their county and be responsible for reviewing applications and determining eligibility.

When Jackson County offered the Management Supervisory Institute, it received a couple of grants to run three class sessions at a time. The program ran for 14 weeks, and participants attended a daylong class once a week.

It targeted high school graduates who are unemployed or underemployed.

With OCRA’s initiative, 51 percent of those enrolled have to meet the low to moderate income level.

Hill said both Jackson and Jennings counties have high schools with a Jobs for America’s Graduates program, which focuses on students who have faced educational barriers and helps them transition to life beyond high school. Many of the work skills are covered in that program.

“We’re looking to hopefully target some of those students when they graduate to potentially enroll them in these classes,” Hill said.

The program also would be offered to employers in the area that want to enhance their existing workforce’s leadership skills.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.