Initiative aims to train, connect job-seekers with employers

October 25, 2016

Employers are looking for workers and job-seekers are looking for opportunities—but the two sides will only connect if the job-seekers' skills match the employers' needs. 

It’s this problem that a new Central Indiana Corporate Partnership initiative aims to address.

The program, called Ascend Indiana, aims to connect Central Indiana employers with the skilled workforce they need, in part by helping provide the training.

“We are creating lots of good-paying jobs. We do not have the supply of people with educational credentials aligned to those available jobs,” said Jason Kloth, president and CEO of Ascend Indiana. 

Ascend Indiana is tackling the issue using four main approaches: working with companies to help them assess and fill their talent needs, helping job-seekers connect with employment and training, building the pipelines that produce skilled workers, and conducting research, consulting and public policy work.

The hallmark of the approach: Working directly with companies and coming up with solutions tailored to their needs. And Ascend has already raised $7 million for the effort, which it describes as a "cross-sector, industry-led organization."

To get started, Ascend has provided funding to open a local office for College for America, a program that helps existing workers earn two- or four-year online degrees paid for through their employers’ tuition reimbursement programs. The Indianapolis office will have staff that works with local employers that want to participate in the program.

Ascend Indiana is currently working on three projects with employers—and it plans to add more over time. Ascend has already hired its management team and Kloth said plans call for an eventual staff of 20-30 people. 

The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, formed in 1999, sponsors a number of economic development initiatives focused on specific economic sectors: TechPoint serves the tech industry, for instance, while BioCrossroads focuses on life sciences and Conexus Indiana focuses on advanced manufacturing and logistics.

Ascend Indiana was formed following conversations about how CICP might add additional initiatives to better serve the 60 executives who make up the organization’s board of directors. No matter what sector they worked in, the executives said finding qualified talent was a challenge, said CICP President and CEO David Johnson. 

“There is huge member demand for this,” Johnson said. “We decided it made sense for us to give it a try.”

Ascend has spent the last year researching the central Indiana workforce and found that the current supply of skilled talent and employer demand "are misaligned, with demand outstripping supply." The group says that in five years, an estimated 62 percent of workers will require some form of post-secondary credential. However, only 42 percent of central Indiana residents will have the level of education they need. That's a gap of 215,000 workers, the group said.

Ascend plans to partner with education providers—including technical schools, universities and community-based programs—to train workers for high-demand jobs that are identified by employers.

In a statement, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said "Ascend Indiana is uniquely positioned to work with key stakeholders and develop mid- to high- skilled workers." EmployIndy, he said, will continue to work with low- to mid-skilled workers.

To support Ascend Indiana’s first three years of operations, the Lilly Endowment Inc. has provided a $5 million grant to the CICP Foundation. In addition, nearly $2 million in additional funding and grants is coming from a combination of other groups: the Joyce Foundation, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, USA Funds, the Lumina Foundation, the Eli Lilly and Co. Foundation, the Central Indiana Community Foundation and the Glick Family Foundation.

Ascend Indiana will also charge companies for the services it provides to them, Kloth said.


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