Hamilton County officials are taking a more narrow approach than the state’s other 21st Century Talent Regions to promote educational attainment, foster higher incomes and grow its population.
State and local community leaders met Thursday at the Bridgewater Club in Westfield to recognize Hamilton County as the state’s fourth 21st Century Talent Region. Hamilton County’s specific priorities under the initiative look to increase internship or apprenticeship opportunities, boost on-time, post-secondary graduation rates, and improve collaborations across industry and county lines.
“It really takes a concerted effort from so many of us across the community,” Indiana Secretary of Career Connections and Talent Blair Milo said. “By now, having an operational dashboard, it helps us to organize ourselves moving forward.”
Holcomb designated 11 counties in northeast Indiana as the state’s inaugural 21st Century Talent Region in June. In August, the seven-county EcO Network of Southeast Indiana got its designation. Indiana Uplands’ 11-county focus area in the south-central part of the state became Indiana’s third region, in November.
Despite having joined those ranks, Hamilton County’s designation stands out because it seeks to first establish a network inside a single county’s lines.
In those other regions, populations are less dense, Milo said. And some probable future 21st Century Talent Regions are starting to think even smaller, such as the IndyEast Promise Zone, which plans to start at the neighborhood level by connecting 22 small communities.
Carol Sergi, director of workforce strategy for the Hamilton County Economic Development Corp., said the new local designation also differs from those other regions in its mission.
Whereas other regions are struggling with on-time high school graduation, Hamilton County’s talent region leadership team is focused on post-secondary education attainment, she said. Even though 95.8% of Hamilton County high schoolers graduate, only 47.3% go on to graduate from a four-year college on time. That rate drops to 13.9% for those seeking a two-year degree.
Blair said, by 2025, at least 60% of all jobs will require some sort of education beyond a high school diploma.
Another goal already identified on Hamilton County’s dashboard seeks to increase the number of completed Hamilton County Workforce Innovation Network internship programs from 76 in 2018 to 100 by 2021.
No goals have been set yet focusing on talent connection, which is intended to ultimately increase the 10% median income growth rate experienced in the county between 2010 and 2018.
Sergi, in her application, said Hamilton County often gets overlooked for receiving state or regional assistance. She said being designated as a talent region would provide strategic planning focus to addressing local housing and transportation issues.
Sergi also pointed to Hamilton County’s lowest unemployment in the state—2.7%—as evidence of a talent deficit.
“This is not just a county issue, it’s a statewide issue and an issue across the country,” she said.
Application materials submitted by the Hamilton County Economic Development Corp. state the group of local government, business, education, not-for-profit, economic and workforce development leaders originally considered including Madison and Tipton Counties in the local region.
“For the initial planning stage, we thought we would concentrate on what was needed,” Sergi said.
She added, once these plans start being implemented, then the leadership plans to reach out to those neighboring counties.
Although a partnership between the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and CivicLab — a not-for-profit institute promoting civic collaboration—will provide funding and technical assistance for up to 12 regions, there are no costs to the regions themselves.
That partnership, in turn, may lead to tangible incentives and connections.
“We continue to have conversations within our state team as to how we’ll assign resources,” Milo said.