Getting the Job Done

Innovative Program Tackles Workforce Shortage

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon

Today’s historically low unemployment rate is great for the economy and for the average person looking for work, but it presents a challenge for businesses.  It can be difficult to find qualified people in many fields and jobs often go unfilled.  That’s where a new program in Hamilton County comes in.

Dan CananThe Hamilton County Workforce Innovation Network, or HC-WIN got its start through a grant from the state of Indiana and is in its infancy.  Dan Canan, a former three-term mayor of Muncie, is the Executive Director of the new project.  Canan knows a lot about the needs of businesses in Hamilton County after spending almost a decade as President and CEO of the Fishers Chamber of Commerce and then as Vice President of OneZone, the combined Fishers and Carmel Chambers. 

Canan says one of the biggest needs the Hamilton County economy has is workforce.  “When you have a community that is growing and you have an economy that is growing and businesses that are growing and you have people that want to live here, all of that requires workforce to meet that demand,” he says adding, “It’s no secret that across the country there is a lack of workforce and certainly that exists in Hamilton County at all levels.”

 

Connecting the Dots

Canan says the workforce problem exists for many reasons including young college graduates that move away, but also because of a lack of understanding of what opportunities exist.  "I think there is a belief that if you don’t go to college and get a four year degree there are not successful venues," he says and that is where HC-WIN comes in.

Canan says there are many careers out there that pay a decent salary that don’t require a college degree.  His organization has identified five areas:  healthcare, advanced manufacturing, construction, IT and Ag tech.  "They are all areas that many times a certification or degree will get you a decent job and they are areas with huge growth," says Canan adding that the information came from recent Department of Workforce Development surveys.

He says HC-WIN's goal is to help provide pathways for three groups of people:  High schoolers that aren’t sure what they want to do, the underemployed who want to move up and the unemployed such as those that have given up and don’t know where to go to find opportunities.  Veteran programs and second chance programs for inmates are also focuses. 

Canan says HC-WIN connects the dots between these people and businesses and government.  "Our desire is to find individuals who want to work and help them to attain the skill level they need to do that." 

Hi tech Skills

One of the drivers of creating HC-WIN was Ivy Tech who Canan says can help fill some of the training gaps.  The other force behind the creation of the organization was Gaylor Electric, an electrical contractor located in Hamilton County which developed its own innovative program internally because they had workforce needs. 

Gaylor spokesperson Chuck Haberman says the goal for HC-WIN is to act as a clearinghouse to provide the training and credentials needed to help the workforce in Hamilton County develop the skills they need.  "There's a lot of different training opportunities throughout our county that we can bring together under one umbrella and skill up our people.," he says, adding, "we have a great ecosystem of employers, educators, and business partners that can provide great opportunity whether it’s training to become an employee or kids right out of high school or somewhere in between, I see it being the go to place for skills and development and workforce information."

Canan points to agriculture as an example of an industry that has changed dramatically and is now technology-driven.  "Part of it is the tractor in the field but a lot of it is the technology that measures the moisture in the field and the type of seed that they want and fertilizer," says Canan adding that healthcare, auto mechanics and advanced manufacturing are all technology now.  "One of the big needs across Hamilton County is maintenance techs so when the machinery is not working right they need a person certified in maintenance to come and repair the equipment.  Twenty years ago that person showed up with a tool box and worked on the machinery.  Now it’s more showing up and looking at the computer and diagnosing the problem electronically.  So it’s rapidly changing and is a constant evolution," he says. 

Canan thinks a great opportunity exists and calls Hamilton County lucky.  "If Hamilton County can’t get this right nobody can get it right.  To me it’s very encouraging the climate that exists here, the cooperation that is unheard of with government, business and the education system.  It doesn’t mean that they don’t have their differences but I think they all have a very similar end result which is to make this county the very best that it can be.  People work very well together for the betterment of the community.  We are very lucky," he says.

If you are an individual interested in changing or furthering your career or a business that could benefit from working with HC-WIN, call Dan Canan directly at 317-537-0670.