State Coalition to Attempt to Close Skills Gap, Programs Already in Place Locally

A skills gap is being blamed for the lack of progress in Indiana’s economic recovery. According to the Indiana Skills2Compete Coalition, career and technical education for youth and the lack of credential attainment among the state’s adult workforce, are needing attention.

The Starke County Initiative for Lifelong Learning Center or SCILL Center, is ahead of the curve with providing opportunities for adults and students to gather skills needed to be a productive member of the adult workforce. Marshall County students make up a part of the enrollment in the vocational programs.  Ron Gifford from the Starke County Economic Development Foundation said officials recognized one gap about three years ago.

“We began a welding program, both for vocational students and for adults to give them a skill that could be used.,” commented Gifford. “There was, and still is, a shortage nationally in qualified welders almost to the point where it’s critical. That program is now in its third year and has been very, very successful both for vocational kids and also for adults.”

The auto tech program has been thriving for over 14 years at the SCILL Center. Gifford says the skills the students learn don’t only pertain to the automotive industry.

“The skills that they get in doing that – you can carry those into other types of jobs because of what you’ve learned and the skills you’ve had to use there. A lot of those kids are going on and getting some additional training in that area and going into some related field.”

Another program to be offered in 2016 will be another step toward closing a skills gap for area residents.

“It’ll be automation, robotics, and equipment maintenance which would be both a vocational program and an adult program just like the welding program. It will give you some type of certification that you could carry anywhere. It would provide a lot of knowledge to somebody and skills they don’t have know that we can give them.”
Gifford added that the recognition of a skills gap was determined years ago, and the SCILL Center has seen great success due to the steps taken to correct the needs of the residents.

The Indiana Skills2Compete Coalition is made up of education policymakers, business, labor, and community leaders, and is made up of 28 coalition members representing 22 organization. The members plan to focus on four recommendations that they believe will help workforce readiness. Those recommendations include: increase support and services for part-time adult students, create an adult literacy tax credit, establish a work-sharing program in Indiana, and promote a statewide prior learning assessment policy.

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