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Posted on September 10th, 2018 in Local News Tags: , ,
Opportunity Youth input/output graphic of Central Indiana

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NOTE: This article originally appeared on on August 22nd, 2018.

In Central Indiana alone, an estimated 30,000 young people ages 16-24 are not engaged in the educational system and are not employed. EmployIndy – Marion County’s workforce development board – serves residents by guiding investments to develop the local workforce, and sees these young adults as an opportunity to strengthen the city.

EmployIndy President & CEO Angela Carr Klitzsch offers a clear differentiation between “opportunity youth” and the more common, negative term “at-risk youth.” Essentially, at-risk youth might be in danger of dropping out of school, while opportunity youth are not engaged in education and are also not in the workforce. In short, according to Carr Klitzsch, “They do not engage in the traditional education-employment activities we see as necessary to achieve self-sufficiency.”

More than 65% of jobs in the Indianapolis region require some type of post-secondary certification or degree, Carr Klitzsch adds, and EmployIndy is trying to help young job seekers find a path to obtaining these types of credentials.

“We have a lot of preventative strategies to try to mitigate and stop young people falling out of the education system,” Carr Klitzsch says, “but then we’re also employing a lot of intervention strategies as well to try to re-engage that population to finish their education if that’s necessary, but also pursue additional post-secondary opportunities.”

Rev. Rodney T. Francis, Senior Director of Opportunity Youth Services at EmployIndy, said that the organization’s priority is often to convince youth in this demographic to continue their education.

“It starts with completing high school or an equivalency – and beyond that can be another type of training or program that leads to an industry-verified certificate, associate’s degree, or perhaps even a bachelor’s degree,” says Francis. “We partner with organizations like Ivy Tech and other adult education providers around the city that can facilitate various education and skills attainment that lead to a better job.”

“For us the premise is getting them back in school so they can connect with a sustainable career. Data has shown if they have the education they’re more likely to continue on to a career track.”

Rodney Francis, Sr. Director of Opportunity Youth Initiatives

To ensure coordinated, quality efforts around the city, EmployIndy is currently working to improve the Youth Employment System by providing guidance and financial investment to bolster existing services. Supported organizations provide job training and career services to young people, focusing their efforts on different neighborhoods, strategies, or segments of the population.

Locating and attracting this elusive group to the services that could benefit them is not always easy. EmployIndy is currently researching and piloting ways to engage opportunity youth, and finding success with a concept called the “Pivot Re-engagement Center,” a partnership on the Far Eastside. At the Finish Line Boys & Girls Club on Post Road, open gym basketball and food is offered to young adults as a “hook” to attract potential participants – and has already seen over 400 young men come into its doors in less than three months.

Through steady interaction and trust-building with on-site staff, the goal is to identify those who are both in need and ready to take a step toward a career. After some evaluation, participants are then connected to education, training, and/or other support services that can help lead to employment. Partnerships between EmployIndy, Finish Line Boys & Girls Club, WorkOne Indy, Community Alliance of the Far Eastside, and Walker Career Center make the path possible. Plans are to replicate the concept in all five EmployIndy high-need target areas and with other “hooks” pending successful evaluation of this pilot program.

These efforts stem from the belief that aiding young people helps the City of Indianapolis in its quest to promote inclusive growth. Though national headlines have heralded the city as the next information technology hot spot and an ideal locale for relocating businesses from other states or cities, there’s more to the story.

“If you start peeling back the layers, you almost have a tale of two cities,” Carr Klitzsch said. “While we have a lot of national accolades and things we can be proud of as a city that we can lean into, there is a significant portion of our population who is being left behind in this economic opportunity.”

It takes a deliberate effort to understand how an organization can play an active role in being a part of inclusive growth. EmployIndy’s Business Solutions team works with employers around the city to help them understand the realities of the labor market and to ensure that there is a return on investment in cultivating local talent.

Carr Klitzsch added, “I think a lot of the data would show we’ve hit a tipping point – for businesses to be successful, employers need to be intentional about really lifting up the population that right now, is not participating. Engaging as a member of EmployIndy’s network is a great first step.”

Posted on August 16th, 2018 in Organizational Updates, Success Story Tags: ,

WorkOne Indy is more than two brick and mortar locations on either side of town. It is made up of the combined efforts of staff, partnerships, referrals, employer partners, and more. As EmployIndy has sought to find more ways for career services to be available in strategic locations that most need support, partnership with Ivy Tech has proven to be successful in connecting job seekers to local employers.

“We have career coaches who do great work with finding jobs and resume development,” says Bradley Pearson, Director of the Early Resource Connections Center (ERCC) at Ivy Tech. “WorkOne has been helpful with more detailed services like understanding transferable skills, beginning a job search from scratch, and providing connections to other WorkOne resources.”

WorkOne Indy career navigator Danielle Sims shares space with finance coaches and others who provide support services at the main Ivy Tech Fall Creek Parkway campus at the ERCC. She compares it to the type of holistic support and structure that one would find at a Center for Working Families rather than what is typically found within a traditional college career services office because “if someone needs a job, they need to have those basic needs met first.”

photo of Danielle Sims

Danielle Sims, WorkOne Indy Career Navigator

Though she says her most common type of support is helping people maneuver through the job search process, Sims also is quick to say that she never sees the same situation twice. Generally, though, there is a pretty even split between people who are seeking help with a career upon matriculation versus those needing a job “right now” while enrolled school. Her services often include resume and application help, sharing opportunities like hiring events and job fairs, and connecting clients to community resources.

Ivy Tech students are not the only people who make use of this resource. With the main campus positioned squarely in the 46208 zip code, this access point also serves as a location that people in the nearby neighborhoods of this target impact area can utilize.

“It is a different demographic than those at the main WorkOne offices – we are definitely reaching people who we otherwise might not be able to support.”

Danielle Sims, WorkOne Career Navigator

With the school year about to start, WorkOne Indy is ramping up on-site hours to 20 per week to be well-positioned for the activity that comes with a new fall semester.

Ivy Tech has done some outreach to ensure that students know WorkOne Indy is offering an on-site resource, and Pearson is quick to say that he believes WorkOne Indy’s presence has enhanced the ERCC’s growth in intake numbers, “becoming more a part of the vernacular for students, faculty, and staff.” Danielle Sims has personally taken that effort a step further.

“Now that I have been co-located here for a while, I have had an opportunity to learn how things work at Ivy Tech and network with others on campus,” she says. One example of this is working with academic advisors to help connect students to Indiana Career Explorer to help students more clearly understand how their strengths and interests can lead to a meaningful career.

Danielle Sims is excited to see WorkOne Indy grow in this area, and she believes this model could work with other locations around Indy. “As more people understand why I am here, I expect to see more referrals come my way.”

During the school year, WorkOne Indy can be accessed on the fourth floor of theIvy Tech North Meridian Center in room 414 from 8:00am – 4:30pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and from 10:00am – 2:00pm on Thursdays.

Posted on August 2nd, 2018 in Organizational Updates, Success Story Tags:

After more than three decades of operation, the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program has proven to be one of the most successful state-level strategies for tackling high school dropout rates, low academic performance, youth unemployment, and other barriers for at-risk youth. Program participants actively engage in career exploration, leadership, and goal setting as they plan for their future and transition into post-secondary education, military service, and/or employment. In Marion County, EmployIndy administers JAG for IPS and other local high schools.

The JAG 5 of 5 Award is the “gold standard” for JAG programs throughout the nation. To earn it, the local program must have at least a 90% graduation rate; 80% positive outcome rate; 60% job placement rate; 60% full-time job rate; and an 80% full-time placement rate. In Marion County, 95% of JAG students graduated from high school for the 2017-2018 school year.

In July, both the state and Marion County were given the JAG 5 of 5 Award for the fourth consecutive year. Additionally, six JAG Specialists received the award, two of which were also recognized on a national level as Outstanding Specialists. Although these awards are coveted, it is not the plaque that drives the specialists to success – it is the lives they impact each and every day.

JAG Specialists gather with award at the national JAG conference

Nearly all the students who enter the JAG program have barriers to overcome and need an extra push to establish a vision for a successful future. In Marion County, only 80% of public school students graduate high school to move onto further education or join the workforce. This dream pushed DaWit, a senior at George Washington High School, to join JAG because of his desire to gain necessary and valuable skills for his future, as well as have the opportunity for career exploration.

DaWit’s JAG Specialist, Charmaine Wardell, saw his motivation and helped him chase his dreams. “She’s the good type of nosy,” DaWit says of Charmaine. “She picks up on what you want to do and why – then she helps you get there.” Charmaine learned that he always hoped to be a public servant, which is when Captain Kevin Givens of the Indianapolis Fire Department entered the picture. When Captain Givens came to speak to the JAG participants this spring, Charmaine encouraged DaWit to network with him and ask about an opportunity to intern at his fire station.

DaWit (back row, center) with crew at Station 31

This connection led to DaWit’s seven-month internship at Station 31. His internship confirmed that becoming a firefighter was what he wants to do with his future. “These people are family,” he said. “They talk openly with one another and are always there for each other and that’s what I want.” DaWit learned that there is some required education to be a successful firefighter, starting with becoming a paramedic and earning his Fire Science degree. In the fall of 2018, he will be taking these steps by attending Indiana State University, making him the first person in his family to attend college.  DaWit is also interested in studying Unmanned Systems and Aeronautical Engineering. DaWit’s dream is to work at the Indianapolis Fire Department while also starting his own business of fixing planes and test flying them.

To guide more young adults like DaWit, JAG will be adding four programs for the 2018-2019 school year, for a total of 18 programs in 14 schools throughout the Indianapolis area. “We’ve had a lot of excitement over the JAG program in the past few years,” says Erika Cheney, EmployIndy’s Director of In-School Youth. “Whenever we are in the media, we always have individuals reaching out to us asking more about the program and how we can expand into their schools.” In the 2018-2019 school year, JAG will be expanding into Warren Central High School, Southport High School, Shortridge High School, and Crispus Attucks High School. JAG is instrumental in providing  schools the extra support needed to help improve student’s academic and future career success.

Aside from growing JAG in Marion County, EmployIndy has been partnering with IPS to encourage work-readiness preparation and career exploration. In June of 2017, EmployIndy and IPS were awarded a grant from EWIN (Education Workforce Innovation Network) and CELL/UIndy (Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis). With these funds, EmployIndy and IPS studied other work-based learning continuums taking place throughout the United States. Representatives from each organization researched and visited Academies of Nashville, P-TECH in New York, and Denver Public Schools CareerConnect.

The knowledge gained from these visits led to the establishment of the Health Sciences Academy launched at Crispus Attucks for the 2017-2018 school year. EmployIndy had staff members on various committees focused on employer engagement, work-readiness, and college and career prep. Throughout the year, St. Vincent, Senior1Care, and Trilogy Health Services were the top health industry employers involved. These employers, along with EmployIndy staff, participated in mock interviews during the student’s College and Career Prep class.

To further improve career readiness and exploration, EmployIndy hosted Opportunity Days at each of the WorkOne Indy locations in February of 2018. The Opportunity Days consisted of 160 students attending employability skills and financial literacy workshops. These student field trips were found to be so successful and informational that they will continue to take place throughout the 2018-2019 school year.

Partnering with organizations throughout Marion County, EmployIndy is working to grow the future of the workforce by providing various funding strategies, techniques, and implementing a strategic plan focused on supplying young adults with opportunities for work-readiness and preparation for a future of sustainable employment in good and promising jobs.