Workforce-Development Initiative Surveys Regional Employers

By Dennis Pierce

Ivy Tech Corporate College aims to help bridge the area’s skills gaps with job-training programs that are really needed.

When Ivy Tech Corporate College wanted to know how it could better meet the skills needs of manufacturers in southern Indiana and around metro Louisville, Kentucky, the college teamed up with workforce-development board WorkOne to build an online survey of local employers.

“Rather than dictating to the market, or listening to only a handful of manufacturers, we thought, let’s put together a survey that we can distribute to the region and seek direct input on the kinds of programs they need,” says Mike Wolf, an Ivy Tech Corporate College executive who oversees workforce-training programs for the area.

The survey, which ended March 25, asked employers what technical skills they require to fill entry-, mid- and advance-level jobs, as well as what skills are hardest to find in new job applicants. It also asked what positions will be hardest to fill in the next few years and what kinds of training programs will be needed for the businesses to succeed.

The survey was publicized in the local media, and Ivy Tech and WorkOne sent a direct link to more than 300 manufacturers and asked them to distribute it to others as well.

While the results of the survey were not available at press time, Wolf says the college will use them to build new programs that meet and stay ahead of the community’s workforce needs.

Other workforce-development initiatives

The survey is only the latest example of how Ivy Tech Corporate College, the corporate-training division of Ivy Tech Community College, is innovating to meet these needs.

A few years ago, Ivy Tech partnered with WorkOne on a workforce-development initiative called “Strategic Doing,” Wolf says. The goal was to better understand and respond to the needs of manufacturers, which make up the second-largest sector of the local economy (behind health care).

As part of this initiative, Ivy Tech and WorkOne created various teams to study aspects such as workforce skills and training, perceptions in the community and the image of manufacturing as a whole.

Wolf has a background in business rather than academics, and he believes this helps in establishing relationships with area employers.

By building relationships with employers and with organizations such as WorkOne, and by being responsive to their needs, Ivy Tech Corporate College has doubled its workforce-training programs over the past few years, Wolf says.

Ivy Tech’s relationship with WorkOne took some time to develop, because both offer similar services and could be seen as competitors.

“When I arrived at Ivy Tech two and a half years ago, it wasn’t nearly the relationship it is today,” he explains. “It developed like any other relationship I’ve had.”

When Ivy Tech received a grant to help with workforce training, Wolf invited WorkOne to participate as well. “I think that helped build trust,” he says, “and it’s evolved since then.”

He concludes, “I think if you’re transparent about what you’re trying to achieve, then people can see where they might fit together. We try to offer complementary efforts, and that has ultimately created a better opportunity for employers and prospective employees in the region.”

How is your college helping to close the skills gap in your area? Tell us in the Comments.

Dennis Pierce

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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