FILE - Steel mill, manufacturing, factory

(The Center Square) – As many Hoosiers try to return to the workforce, some are finding that don't have the job skills required in an ever-changing environment.

"Data show Hoosiers with less than a high school diploma have been the most likely to be unemployed in June and July," Charlee Beasor, communications director at Indiana Commission for Higher Education, told The Center Square. "While some Hoosiers have returned to jobs that have changed dramatically and require new skills, others have become displaced and must seek entirely new paths back to work, especially in industries that have taken the brunt of the economic hardship this year."

While some major employers are calling back employees and hiring new ones, other smaller, local service industries are struggling.

Lee Lewellen, president and CEO of the Indiana Economic Development Association, told The Center Square that skilled workers have an easier time re-entering the job market. Unemployed workers need income now but may not be able to find a job without undergoing further training, and some employers need workers now but may be forced to train incoming workers.

Since 2017, the Next Level Jobs program has provided free training for workers who want to pursue certification in high-demand fields, including health and life sciences, IT and business services, advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and building and construction. The initiative also reimburses employers in these fields who train and hire new employees.

The state’s Rapid Recovery for a Better Future initiative is using $50 million in CARES Act funding to scale up the Next Level Jobs program and help even more Hoosiers gain the education and training they need to get a new job quickly or reskill themselves.

Indiana residents with a high school diploma can apply for the Workforce Ready Grant which provides for up to two years of tuition and fees toward any eligible certificate program of the five high-demand trades. Upon completion, individuals receive a high-quality certificate in one of the state's in-demand industries.

"Since the creation of the Next Level Jobs Workforce Ready Grant in 2017, more than 15,000 Hoosiers have earned a free credential and almost 28,000 Hoosiers have enrolled in Workforce Ready Grant-eligible, high-demand certificate programs," Beasor said. "The median annual wage gain with a completed certificate is $6,400."

Eligibility for the Workforce Ready Grant program has been temporarily extended to Indiana residents who hold an associate's or bachelor's degree.

The Employer Training Grant reimburses Indiana employers who train, hire and retain workers in the five most in-demand job fields. The maximum amount per employer has been increased from $50,000 to $100,000 through the end of 2020. A set amount of funding has also been designated for veteran-, minority- and women-owned businesses. Since 2017, 2,300 employers and 18,000 employees have been trained through the grant.

Applications for both the Workforce Ready Grant and the Employer Training Grant can be found at nextleveljobs.org. At YourNextStepIN.org, the online hub for Rapid Recovery, Hoosiers can connect to education and training opportunities, search for jobs, and access necessary support services, such as child care, health care and unemployment insurance.