Posted on September 17th, 2021 in Success Story
Many career pathways are designed to fit a particular series of steps; graduate high school, achieve a post-secondary degree, obtain real-world experience outside of the classroom, and then enter the workforce, but only after achieving the required qualifications. These pathways are linearly formulated, forging a standard of eligibility that deems who can secure sustainable careers and who is confined to non-promising jobs.
For countless workers, however, the tracts to career success are riddled with obstacles that span beyond a conventional scope; the sequential progressions of traditional career pathways are not always applicable routes for many people to take. This notion is, simply, not a “one size fits all” solution for our workforce.
As a part of Mayor Joe Hogsett’s commitment to renew Indianapolis’ workforce development efforts in June of 2016, EmployIndy has dedicated efforts to finding and establishing a variety of innovative career pathways within Marion County. This places a priority on reducing the barriers that prevent individuals from progressing through the A job, Better job, Career (ABC) continuum.
A job is any form of employment that provides a source of income to secure basic needs. A better job provides sustainable compensation and opportunities for further education and industry experience. A career provides ongoing professional advancement and economic security. The goal is for every Marion County resident to have the opportunity to develop a career by first creating access to any job and then moving to a better job that prepares individuals for real-world success.
This continuum requires multiple points of intervention from community-based organizations, employers, and schools, alike. From wrap-around services to professional mentorship to skills enhancement, the entire workforce ecosystem plays a role in fostering an individual’s progression. This allows service providers to meet workers where they are at, and curate resources and opportunities tailored to their individual circumstances.
EmployIndy was able to both encourage the progression through and witness the intricacies of the ABC continuum through the career trajectory of Essence Gray. Gray grew up in Pike Township and attended many different schools in the area throughout her teenage years. She experienced homelessness during this time and was in and out of foster care before she eventually settled in Washington Township.
While attending Shortridge Highschool, Gray joined “Life After Shortridge,” a program that helped to elevate young people and open their eyes to the world of opportunities that exists outside the immediate community. Through this experience, Gray set herself apart through her tenacious insight and innovative ideas, winning a writing contest that earned her an internship with Ice Miller LLP, a full-service law firm in downtown Indianapolis.
After completing the internship experience, Gray enrolled at Vincennes University, studying Business Administration and Audio Production. At the time, she wanted to become a lawyer and generate opportunities for underserved youth to advance their creative potentials, much like her own experience at Shortridge.
In November of 2018, Gray gave birth to her son after completing her first year of college. She did not continue on with her degree after becoming a mother and began working at a restaurant to provide for her child. Near the end of 2019, Gray was 23 years old and navigating many personal tribulations in addition to parenting a toddler. As COVID-19 began ransacking the world the following Spring, she found herself at a major turning point.
“One day I just realized that I didn’t want to do this,” recalled Gray. “I am not meant to just sit around and wash dishes for the rest of my life. I deserve more, and I am capable of more.”
Shortly thereafter, in April of 2020, Gray learned of the YES Indy program from Hawthorne Community Center. She enrolled immediately and completed the PepUp Tech program, all while healing from her own traumas and taking care of her son. Gray also began studying for her SalesForce Certification, and it was during this time that she was offered an internship with EmployIndy.
“I saw that the future was focused on technology, and I was hungry for the tech work that I knew I could change the world with,” said Gray.
Gray began working with EmployIndy’s Strategy and Research team at the end of 2020, and her role included a variety of data analyses, from report personalization to data mechanization and beyond. She also played a crucial role in transitioning and implementing EmployIndy’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, a critical component of EmployIndy’s internal re-organization that was occurring at this time.
“Having Essence as a team member at EmployIndy allowed us to really live out our ethos and experience, as employers, the value that young, diverse talent brings to organizations,” said Marie Mackintosh, Chief Strategy Officer at EmployIndy. “It was a wonderful experience to help Essence navigate the ABC continuum and advance her career.”
After her time at EmployIndy, Gray began an internship with the Martindale-Brightwood Community Development Corporation (MBCDC) as an Executive Assistant in the Summer of 2021. This internship helped her to grow as a mother and as a professional, providing her with invaluable experience within the world of work. The connections she made continue to help her advance her career.
“Growing up, my career path was set in stone,” said Gray. “But then life happened and it became a struggle to find what I truly wanted to do versus what other people were telling me to do and what opportunities were actually feasible.”
On September 1st, 2021, Gray started a full-time apprenticeship as an Indianapolis Public Ally. Gray serves as an Ally with the American Red Cross, working directly with the Martindale-Brightwood community in outreach and technological innovation throughout the next ten months.
“It means something to me to have my feet on the ground and make change happen. I remember being that young person who just wanted someone to see me, to help me, and to believe in me,” said Gray. “Now, I get to be that person for others and continue to help and heal my community.”
- To learn more about EmployIndy’s focus on establishing a variety of innovative career pathways within Marion County, view our 2017-2022 Strategic Plan here.
Posted on September 10th, 2021 in Events
Despite tremendous uncertainty, this year has offered new opportunities. Economic recovery programs are underway across the country and efforts surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion continue to grow, both in frequency and stature. Workforce development is playing a critical role in shaping the future of our communities, now more than ever before. This September, EmployIndy is celebrating Workforce Development Month by recognizing the strides our workforce ecosystem has made during unprecedented times.
These strides, however, were not accomplished without navigating the obstacles of the past eighteen months; the COVID-19 global health crisis and ensuing economic recession; entire industry shutdowns, and thousands of business closures. Our healthcare system was pushed to the brink, losing hundreds of thousands of lives as millions more still suffer the collective and individual trauma of this pandemic. The systemic disparities of both our economy and society were laid bare, exposing the structural inequities of our communities.
The opportunity to address the barriers plaguing our workforce, however, has never been more present.
And we took it.
Learning from the choices made during the Great Recession, the economic recovery has been driven by investing in workers and good jobs. There has been a tremendous investment in workers and workforce development from the federal government, with more legislation pending.
Communities have more accessible resources to help a diverse array of workers gain the skills they need to launch sustainable careers. Job seekers can be discerning about the jobs they take. Employers are improving the quality of their jobs through higher wages, increased benefits, more equitable hiring practices, and other job quality elements that attract workers. Our workforce is in the midst of the good jobs recovery we need.
But we, as workforce developers, cannot stop here. We need to keep our foot on the gas to accelerate this recovery and rebuild a workforce ecosystem that benefits all people. There is still a lot of work to be done to address structural inequities within the world of work and our society. Investing in good jobs cannot be a one-time gimmick to bring in workers; employers need to stay committed to investing in their workforce.
This Workforce Development Month we acknowledge that we are on the right path, but there is still a long way to go to get to an equitable, inclusive, and thriving economy for all.
Stay up to date with the latest developments during Workforce Development Month by following #WkDevMonth2021 on social media.
For more resources on workforce development and additional content on Workforce Development Month, check out EmployIndy partner National Fund for Workforce Solutions.
Posted on September 6th, 2021 in Uncategorized
7 September 2021 – The modern age has brought about major changes within the world of work. Emerging technologies and globalization are impacting the very nature of workforce dynamics while employers’ demand for highly-skilled, versatile talent continues to grow. A combination of technical and soft skills, as well as comprehensive, real-world experiences, are prerequisites for the majority of entry-level jobs. The opportunities to obtain these credentials, however, are not readily accessible, creating a widening gap in career-ready skills amongst the workforce.
In an effort to bridge the gap between the supply of talent and the demand for multi-skilled employees in the local community, EmployIndy and Ascend Indiana piloted a new apprenticeship model for Indianapolis high school students that prepare them for the future of high-demand industries.
Modern Apprenticeship (MAP) is a paid three-year work-based learning experience for Central Indiana high schoolers with local community employers. Beginning their junior year of high school, apprentices will split their time between the classroom and the workplace. By the end of the MAP experience, students not only graduate with a high school diploma and obtain invaluable social capital, but they will also earn industry-recognized credentials and transferable college credits.
“Modern Apprenticeship helps to diversify talent pipelines while increasing the economic mobility of local youth and providing the critical experience needed when taking the next steps towards a career,” says Betsy Revell, Vice President of Talent Solutions at EmployIndy.
The inaugural MAP cohort, consisting of 30 students and 16 employers, signed their certificate of acceptance in May of 2021, establishing a system of career-connected learning that will create equitable opportunities for high schoolers throughout Marion County. The youth apprentices completed two MAP boot camps this summer to prepare them for their upcoming apprenticeships this fall and begin connecting with their employers and peers.
In addition to piloting the Modern Apprenticeship program, EmployIndy and Ascend Indiana both hired apprentices from the inaugural cohort.
“Hiring internal apprentices was important to EmployIndy because we wanted to navigate the Modern Apprenticeship program alongside our business partners and have a legitimate experience as a MAP employer,” says Revell. “Hosting apprentices also aligns with our goals associated with creating long-term talent pipelines and EmployIndy’s strategic priority of building career pathways for young adults.”
Salematou Diaby, Kimorah Waites, and Melanie Garcia began their apprenticeships at EmployIndy on August 9th. All three apprentices have been placed in different departments within EmployIndy; Diaby with the Career Services team, working with WorkOne Indy; Waites with the Talent Solutions team, working with Talent Bound and MAP; and Garcia with the K-12 and Postsecondary team, working with K-12 programs (photos at end of post).
“It is exciting to have youth apprentices within these EmployIndy teams because, in many cases, high school students are our target audience,” says Revell. “Our apprentices offer an opportunity for EmployIndy to get real-world feedback in real-time, and we need that real-time insight to continue to expand our programs.”
Workforce development is facing a new set of stipulations in adequately preparing young people for the future working world. The demand for well-rounded, experienced employees requires targeted services that leverage existing talent pools from a young age. Competent workers are abundant, but the training needed to fortify their skills is not always accessible. Modern Apprenticeship creates accessible opportunities for young talent while enhancing the skills needed to succeed in today’s in-demand industries.
Melanie Garcia, EmployIndy's K-12 & Postsecondary Apprentice
Salematou Diaby, EmployIndy's Career Services Apprentice
Kimorah Waites, EmployIndy's Talent Solutions Apprentice