United Way of the Wabash Valley announced a new grant opportunity made available by their Job Skills Impact Council to help address job skills challenges in the Wabash Valley. Stable, living-wage employment is essential for helping struggling families improve their economic circumstances. At a time when employers report having job opportunities available, one may easily assume that it’s simple for workers to find and keep the living wage employment they need. Unfortunately, data shows that in our region, both urban and rural, people of prime working age are struggling with unemployment or underemployment.
There is no single explanation for our area’s high prime-age employment gap. We know there are barriers to sustained employment such as lack of childcare, lack of transportation, and lack of affordable housing which can prevent our workers from getting or keeping a good, stable job. In addition to barriers to employment, we also face a lack of job skills. Ready Indiana, an initiative of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, recently published a survey of 335 employers, stating they believe 71 percent of employees lack “applied skills” such as problem-solving, communication, work ethic, and professionalism. The employers also estimated that 35 percent of employees lack computer-related skills and 25 percent require on-the-job training.
The United Way wants to help address the job skills gap in our community. The “Learn to Earn” grant opportunity is soliciting proposals for services or programs that improve job skills for working-age (18-65) ALICE adults. Organizations eligible to apply include non-profit organizations, educational institutions, faith-based groups, government entities, and community organizations. The funding is for 2 years from grant start date, and applicants will be allowed to apply for a minimum of $ 10,000 up to a maximum of $45,000 for investment in 2024-2025.
We know that many organizations are working to help address the job skills issue in our community. This funding is intended to help bring the variety of resources together or fill a gap in allowing for participating in programs in order to provide for more opportunities for individuals. Proposed projects can take a variety of approaches to addressing job skills challenges in the United Way service area. Potential programs could include, but are not limited to programs that:
- Connect individuals who have an employment barrier (people with disabilities, formerly incarcerated individuals, language barrier, etc.) with employers
- Facilitate transitional job opportunities for individuals that have been out of the workforce
- Help remove structural barriers, such as transportation to employment
- Provide individuals with life/career coaching and mentorship for job attainment and retention (time management, financial literacy, resume writing, computer skills, conflict resolution, etc.)
- Connect individuals with low-cost, high-quality training and mentorship for high-demand jobs
United Way’s Community Impact Specialist, Michele Bennett, stated, “Our Job Skills Council had a lot of discussions about how to invest in our community. We researched and learned that many organizations are offering job skill opportunities, but we felt there was still something holding back individuals from investing in themselves. This funding opportunity is an open invitation to allow employers or organizations to get creative in how they can enhance or fill a gap to allow more individuals to gain access to vital job skills training. We look forward to working with and seeing the creative applications for the “Learn to Earn” grant funding.”
There will be an informational meeting about the “Learn to Earn” grant on Tuesday, November, 28th at 5:30 pm EST with the letter of intents due on Monday, January 15, 2024. You can find out more information and how to apply at https://uwwv.org/funding/ or you can contact Michele Bennett at [email protected].