SELLERSBURG — Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg is providing free workforce certification programs with funding from the state’s Workforce Ready Grant.

The college is offering four short-term certification classes in areas that employers have identified as immediate needs, including three that are now open for enrollment with limited seats available. The three available classes will begin in mid-to-late August, and the tuition will be free for anyone who qualifies.

Matthew Cupp, a career coach and employer consultant at Ivy Tech Sellersburg, said the four programs were identified by the college’s employer partners in fields such as manufacturing that are now in “extreme need” with issues that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three will be in the manufacturing field with classes focused on machining, welding and certified production technician training, and the fourth is an IT program focused on building entry-level job skills related to computer hardware and operating systems. The machining class has already been filled.

“The cool part about all of these is that books, exams and class materials are all covered by the grant for anyone who is taking the class, and typically, we have students and employers together in those classes, so it really builds that community awareness of what we have going on,” Cupp said.

Students in any of the four programs will be finished before Christmas, so they will earn their industry certifications before the end of the year, Cupp said.

He said Ivy Tech has received the Workforce Ready Grant for several years, but the community has become more aware of the grant recently with workforce challenges caused by the pandemic. The grant is an initiative under the state’s Next Level Jobs program.

“We’ve done lots of these classes over the last 18 months, but I think there’s a bigger emphasis coming from the community now of ‘we need to take advantage of the funds to skill our laborers, and obviously build that workforce pipeline,’ ” he said.

The state funding is “opening the door” for employers to find skilled talent, Cupp said.

Federal funding from the CARES Act has allowed the the state to temporarily add the certification programs to the Workforce Ready Grant and expand the eligibility for the grant. Over the next six months, students who already have associates or bachelors degrees will be able to qualify for Workforce Ready funds to further their education.

“Now, they’re starting to look at a workforce outside of manufacturing that may have some of the skill sets that they need but not necessarily the certifications,” Cupp said. “Then they’re able to hire those people and then send them back to school for that certification.”

Many employers have a tight budget now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and training is usually at the bottom of the list for spending, he said. The Workforce Ready Grant shows employers that there is funding outside of their own training budget that can be used to educate workers in needed skill sets, according to Cupp.

“I think it shows them that the state realizes they need a stronger pipeline of talent, and they’re willing to help them to get there,” he said.

Cupp said the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of challenges for employers searching for high-skilled workers.

“Now, with the things that have been going for the past few months, it’s gotten even harder, because people are used to virtual classes, virtual trainings, virtual everything, and in some cases they’re not working at all,” he said. “So for an employer, their needs are, can you show up, can you at least do the bottom-line duties to get us through day-to-day operations, and they’re starting to figure out once they have someone who’s reliable, then they’re going to have to train them.”

Ryan Pavlina works in talent management at GKN Sinter Metals, a manufacturer in Salem, Ind. that partners with Ivy Tech Sellersburg. He said the company has previously used the Workforce Ready Grant to train a number of employees, including those who went from temporary positions to full-time jobs.

Finding skilled workers to fill CNC machining positions has been difficult for the past two years, and it has become even more challenging amid the pandemic, he said.

“So many folks out there need people, and if someone doesn’t want to do this, they go somewhere else,” he said. “There’s not enough qualified people to get into those positions.”

According to Cupp, Ivy Tech Sellersburg also participates in the state’s Employer Training Grant, which allows employers to apply for up to $100,000 for training for in-demand positions — employers can use $5,000 per employee.

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