Starke and Pulaski Counties are working together to expand adult workforce training.
Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Charlie Weaver asked the commissioners of both counties Monday for their support in applying for a grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. He told the Pulaski County Commissioners the grant would help fund a program that will give workers the skills most needed by area industries, “We have surveyed Starke County, done some surveys in three companies in Pulaski County, other companies in Marshall County and LaPorte County, trying to find out what in the adult workforce is the most needed right now, and it was interesting – every company we went to, the number one need was industrial equipment maintenance. That’s the people they can’t find. The secondary need was training in automation with troubleshooting.”
Weaver says the counties have to have a workforce ready for potential industries, “The reason we’re doing this is the whole landscape of employment is changing. So we’ve got to, in the rural counties, prepare ourselves so that we are relevant when a company comes looking for a location. We’ve got to have those job skills that are not only new for today but new for tomorrow, and that’s what this whole thing is designed to do.”
The Office of Community and Rural Affairs is awarding eight grants of up to $250,000 each. Weaver says in order to get some of that money, a regional approach is needed, “We’re just individually too small to compete, so we have to join together, and my commissioners ask, ‘Why are you going to Pulaski County to do this?’ And my answer is ‘To be able to train the people in Starke County, I need people from other counties to get trained also. We need enough mass to be able to afford the program.'”
The Pulaski County Commissioners formally agreed to support the program and to work with Starke County on the project, while the Starke County Commissioners agreed to update its fair housing and drug-free workplace ordinances in order to comply with the grant.