Grant money targets much-needed ‘middle skill’ jobs

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INDIANAPOLIS — Hundreds of Indiana companies reported leaving job openings vacant in the past year because of under-qualified candidates, according to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

It’s that skills gap that prompted an announcement by Gov. Mike Pence Thursday, handing out a total of $3 million in grant money to companies across the state.

The money will go to high-skills training for high school students and adults.

“Eighty percent of advanced manufacturing and logistics employers say that workforce is their greatest need right now,” said Claudia Cummings with Conexus Indiana.

Conexus received some of that grant money and planned to use it to place 80 high school students directly into advanced manufacturing internships.

“Most importantly, we hope to transition these students from just academic pursuits into actual employees,” Cummings said.

“There are lots of opportunities out there,” Derek Redelman with the Indiana Chamber said.

It’s opportunity that, in many cases, is not being seized. Companies report a gap in particular with “middle skills” jobs, those that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree.

A Chamber survey found that 39 percent of Indiana employers left jobs open because they couldn’t find qualified candidates. That, despite 57 percent that expect to grow their workforce in the next two years.

“We used to really celebrate on an equal basis people that were college-bound and people that were career-bound,” Pence said.

The hope is that further grants will fund training programs that fill the gap and fill those jobs now sitting vacant.

If you want to see what’s out there, go to the Indiana Chamber’s skills website here.

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