Celebrating Workforce Development Month
September is Workforce Development Month. I recall my first visit to the local office of Massachusetts Employment Security in 1970. I was greeted by a pleasant man in a bow tie who riffled through a stack of index cards as he talked to me, trying to find suitable job matches for a college kid whose only work experience had been newspaper delivery and sweeping floors in high school. Several places turned me down, but my counselor was very encouraging and with his help I finally found a summer job. I will always be grateful to that kind and patient public servant whose name I do not remember but whose efforts helped me to earn the money I needed to finish school.
While American Job Centers (as they are called today) are models of modern technology, with instant access to search tools and worldwide information about the labor market, they haven't greatly improved on the efforts of that lowly state employee with his index cards back in 1970. Nevertheless, Indiana is trying to be responsive to the changing needs of 21st century job seekers. The Workforce Ready Grant funds training for jobs in high-demand fields, covering tuition and fees for qualifying certifications. Job seekers may apply on-line or visit a local American Job Center, known as WorkOne here in Indiana. Indiana’s Adult Education providers blend high school diploma and equivalency classes with job training. Some of these providers partner with local community-based organizations. For example, in Indianapolis, the Bridges to Career Opportunities program, funded by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, serves low-wage job seekers with a range of education and job training services on a financial coaching platform designed to help families grow assets and become financially stable.
So much of this work depends on the skills and dedication of people on the front lines. In observation of Workforce Development Month, I ask friends and colleagues to honor the efforts of workforce development professionals everywhere who provide help and guidance to those who work for a living and who seek a better life for themselves and their families.
Tom Orr is a Senior Program Officer at LISC Indianapolis. He serves as an A&O Steering Committee Member.