PERRY COUNTY — Whitney Zellers of the Southwest Indiana Workforce Board volunteered to speak for the Kiwanis Club. She explained the role of the organization and the role it plays. She also spoke about the things offered by the organization.
They are a body made up of businesses and community organizations that form representatives in Southwest Indiana. The Board oversees workforce development initiatives at Workforce One’s Southwest offices in Dubois, Gibson, Knox, Perry and Pike, Posey, Spencer, Vanderburgh and Warrick counties. They serve a wide range of communities, but their team is small, according to Zellers.
The Board of Directors had three new members in the past year. There is one board member from each district. The Perry County location is currently open. The business development agency and the chamber help to appoint the best board member for the district.
The Perry County office is behind Ivy Tech. Becky May has been at it for years.
“She is a wonderful addition to our community and has helped many people,” Zellers said.
The Board’s mission is to develop and promote strategies that provide employers in Southwest Indiana with a skilled workforce. They support and train job seekers pursuing careers at competitive wages that lead to self-sufficiency.
The labor is funded by the federal government. Funding comes from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This law was enacted in July 2014 and aims to improve job seekers’ access to employment, education, training and support services to succeed in the labor market, according to the WIOA website.
Some of the programs they have run have been supported by a grant that removes the barriers encountered in finding employment. Zeller gave the example of steel toe boots. If someone needs them for a job, Workforce can help provide the shoes they need.
These can be legal fees, vehicle repairs, child care, licenses, eyeglasses, high school equivalence tests, and library fees.
Zellers is part of the Business Service department. They are a division of the board that provides employers with various strategies to meet their needs. This department consists of Zellers, Valerie Schmidt and Angie Shepherd.
The state has a program called Next Level Jobs. The state puts so much money into a fund that is an employer training grant. Companies can apply to promote their employees. The company presents a training plan to justify the funds used.
The Employer Training Grant is available for eligible occupations in six priority sectors. The grant reimburses employers up to $5,000 per employee trained, hired and retained for six months, up to $50,000 per employer, according to the Next Level Jobs website.
For training to be reimbursable, training must:
• A professional qualification that is linked to a job that is in demand (boarding school training and informal job shadowing are not counted).
• Be at least 40 hours in length (minimum), leading to a certificate or credential upon completion.
• Ensuring post-training wage growth for current employees trained in new skills; There are currently no salary requirements for newly qualified employees.
“The purpose of increasing your workforce is for you to believe in them enough to keep them. The employee must be employed for up to six months,” said Zeller.
Next Level Jobs also has an educational program aimed at job seekers, but Zellers doesn’t care about that side.
Zellers explained that they also provide employer data to all employers they meet, which will be useful to them. They also offer training opportunities at the Ministry of Labour. The workforce is an intermediary, being the link between the Department of Labor and the employer. There is a 90% retention rate through these programs.
Tell City High School has the JAG program through Workforce. This program is designed to help with things like resumes, job interviews, internships and things that will help them in their future careers.
There are many programs from Workforce that can be checked out via swinworkforce.org.