One of the most highly discussed topics when it comes to jobs is that while we are bringing new investments and creating and retaining jobs across the state, we are lacking the skilled workers to fill those positions. I have met with many local and state officials to discuss ways to improve our economic situation. Providing the tools necessary for Hoosiers to fill high-quality jobs is critical moving forward and I was recently made aware of an exciting new program.
WorkOne Southwest has been a major partner in helping Hoosiers reach their employment goals. They are announcing a new program named Youth Employment Services (YES) that will be an initiative to serve the most at-risk youth in southwest Indiana.
This program, modeled on a program in Indianapolis, will serve youth that have dropped out of school prior to obtaining a high school diploma. Indiana’s latest graduation numbers show that students on the free and reduced lunch program graduate at a rate of 70 percent, while those not on the free and reduced lunch program graduate at a rate of 87.5 percent. In addition, the youth that have dropped out of school tend to be the children of high school dropouts and, therefore, the most at-risk of continuing the cycle of poverty.
To help these at-risk youth, the YES program will utilize private investment to provide services that are not covered by most government funding. The initiative will provide youth that are ages 17-25 the opportunity to overcome education obstacles preventing them from being a part of today’s workforce.
While at-risk youth can utilize community-based organizations’ (CBO) services, CBO’s are limited as to the services they can offer. CBO’s currently focus on short-term, immediate needs including food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare assistance. Because of that, they agree that being able to provide these youth with ‘barrier-busting’ vouchers will help them obtain a GED and employment. These barrier-busting vouchers may be used in cases where other funds are limited due to eligibility, timeliness or other system barriers. Our community’s resources could then be maximized with these vouchers by helping companies employ an at-risk workforce that has worked to attain greater employability skills.
This is an excellent opportunity for area businesses and employers, along with our local workforce development groups, to increase the current pool of skilled workers for both today’s and tomorrow’s workforce needs.
The YES program kick-off is going to be on Oct. 1, and has been made possible through the contributions of Vectren Corp. and German American Bank.
WorkOne Southwest asks that if you know of a business that would like to support the YES program, please contact Jim Heck, Executive Director at Grow Southwest Indiana Workforce, by email at email@example.com. I believe that this is going to be a top-notch program, and I look forward to hearing about the positive impact it will have on our community.
Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler)