The Indiana Department of Workforce Development has expanded Northeast Indiana Works training program funding to the tune of $2.1 million with money available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

“This is a great opportunity for the region’s employers and for individuals interested in enhancing their skills, especially as the economy begins to open up,” Northeast Indiana Works President Edmond O’Neal said in an announcement.

“The demand for skilled workers has never been greater and it has never been easier to access training.”

The additional funding went to the Workforce Ready Grant and Employment Training Grant programs with a requirement that training it would cover must begin before the end of the year.

The WRG for individuals is restricted to training in the high-growth fields of advanced manufacturing, building and construction, health and life sciences, information technology and business services, and transportation and logistics.

It covers tuition and normal fees for qualifying high-value certificates offered by any eligible institution or organization on Indiana’s training and provider list.

In northeast Indiana, approved trainers “include but are not limited to Ivy Tech, the Freedom Academy in Kendallville, Indiana Tech, and Fort Wayne Community Schools adult education,” O’Neal said in an email.

“Staff at the WorkOne Northeast career centers can provide additional details on available programs and providers throughout the region, as well any potential online options,” he said.

In addition to visiting a WorkOne center, parties interested in the ETG or WRG program also can send inquiries via email to trainingfunds@neinworks.org with a phone number where they can be reached.

Employers also should provide the name of the county where their business is located, and individuals should include the name of the county where they live.

The program will not reimburse students for any classes they already have taken. However, training they have not taken but were planning to begin this fall in one of the high-growth fields of focus for WRG could be a different matter.

“If they haven’t started a class, the instruction is offered by an approved provider and the student completes the class before the end of the calendar year, the student may qualify for funding help,” O’Neal said.

And WRG training is not restricted to the unemployed. “People currently employed are eligible to access qualifying training to skill themselves up and to be better prepared to access the labor market, grow within their existing career pathway or make a career transition,” he said.

The ETG program has the same fields of focus as WRG, with the addition of agriculture. Companies making some types of personal protection equipment also may qualify for the program.

Employers are reimbursed through the program for at least 40 hours of training they have customized for their specific needs, and the training can be outsourced or provided in-house.

Customized plans for the training are created on a case-by-case basis and can involve “a range of delivery mechanisms, including higher education institutions, accredited training providers, and corporately developed processes. It is not so much a case of institutions qualifying to provide ETG training,” O’Neal said.

“As long as the training is supporting advancement or skilling up in a state-approved occupation, the expense is reimbursed to the employer up to $5,000 per person,” he said.

“For employers, who increasingly are hiring across numerous industries, this funding allows them to ensure new workers have the skills needed for the workforce.”

While the reimbursement per employee has remained at $5,000, with the extra funding, an employer’s total reimbursement cap has been increased to $100,000 from $50,000, and the requirement that they retain trained workers at least half a year has been waived.

Additional WRG program requirements have been modified until the end of the year.

Having a post-secondary degree is no longer a barrier to WRG training access and people without a high school degree can now enroll in a High School Equivalency program while getting the training.

There is a larger list of occupations qualifying for WRG training and the funding cap per student has been increased to $10,000 from $5,000.

Northeast Indiana Works has emphasized the importance of training to meet the ever-changing demands of business for a number of years, O’Neal said.

Many who have taken that message to heart will see expanded program funding as “a great opportunity for employers to strengthen their workforces and for individuals to position themselves for in-demand jobs,” he said.

Northeast Indiana Works saw increased interest in the ETG and WRG programs within days of the July 24 CARES Act funding announcement and had connected 39 employers with an ETG opportunity by July 27.

“We expect that figure to grow significantly as we continue our outreach. We hope to provide training support to everyone who is interested and that the training meets the skill needs of employers and leads to higher-paying jobs, better benefits, and job security for individuals,” O’Neal said.

“To achieve these goals, we do anticipate carrying a heavy workload over the next several months, but that is not much different from our normal operation,” he said.

“We have always operated with a service mindset within our region and we have a strong team of employees who enjoy helping people fulfill their career ambitions, especially with everything else going on in the world right now.”

The additional money will cover WRG and ETG training for qualifying individuals and employers in the state’s Economic Growth Region 3, which includes Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Grant, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties.

“Anyone who is interested in accessing training opportunities should act immediately,” O’Neal said. “There is a limited window of opportunity to access and complete training, which is through the end of the calendar year.”

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