June 27 2024 0comment

United Way Awards “Learn to Earn” Grant

The United Way of the Wabash Valley Job Skills Impact Council has awarded $41,500 to an organization dedicated to helping area workers in developing crucial job skills. 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, transportation, and 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% 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 awarded Parke Vermillion Adult Ed/South Vermillion (PVAE) $41,500 through the Learn to Earn program. Their initiative, “Expanding Education in Parke and Vermillion Counties – One Life at a Time,” will deliver important job skills training, High School Equivalency diplomas, career training, and industry-recognized certifications to Wabash Valley workers. PVAE stated “In the Wabash Valley, we are the Adult Education provider that offers one of the widest arrays of options in the area.” PVAE intends to utilize this grant by expanding the hours of operation at their classroom in Eugene, IN. Additionally, a new classroom will be added in Bellmore, IN. The grant will also go towards classroom instructors, computers, furniture, textbooks, student supplies, and administrative costs.

By bringing/expanding classroom access to these areas, PVAE hopes to minimize many barriers to student participation and success. Transportation and childcare needs will be greatly reduced when the classroom is only five or ten minutes away instead of 35. The barrier of fear will no longer exist when students have the option of walking into a familiar place. It will be easier to build a sense of community in a classroom where students know each other, and this sense of community will help increase student participation as they encourage one another and help hold each other accountable for effort and attendance.

PVAE intends to further utilize the funds by investing in community marketing efforts. This will deliver basic information about what PVAE is, what it does, and who it can help. PVAE wants to further this marketing effort with a more focused approach by reaching out to community members and leadership who have direct contact with the people they are trying to reach. These include small business owners, church leaders, township trustees, and health workers.

Seth Carter, co-chair of the Job Skills Council, stated “The Job Skills Council is proud to fund the Parke/Vermillion Adult Education Program.  The program represents everything the Job Skills Council set out to achieve – efficiently connecting ALICE populations to sustainable living-wage opportunities and eliminating barriers to success.  We couldn’t be more excited to see the positive impact this team will have on our community towards moving Wabash Valley families out of financial struggles and into stability.”