Adam Scholtes:             This is the Skill Up Build Up Podcast powered by the Morales Group where we are leading talent to thrive. The war for talent is real Skill Up Build Up is a place to connect with businesses and community leaders to surface forward thinking solutions for better skilled workforce to compete in the 21st century.

Kofi Darku:                   Happy New Year. Welcome back to the Skill Up Build Up podcast where we're leading talent to thrive. On this first episode in 2019, we have the Chairman of the Governor's Workforce Cabinet, Danny Lopez on the show with us. Welcome Danny.

Danny Lopez:                Hey guys. How are you?

Kofi Darku:                   Well, since we're fresh into this new year, we're curious about whether or not you had any type of New Year resolution that you're trying to hold to this year. What do you have, Danny?

Danny Lopez:                Well, first happy new years to you guys. I hope you had a great Christmas. Um, I think this year is the, is the year I'm going to get in shape. That's my, that's my. I'm going to get off the blood pressure. Medicate my, my job does not, does not lend itself to get an off blood pressure medication, but I think this is gonna be the year I get healthy and do a little exercise to find a little bit, a little bit of balance, but we'll, we'll see. At least that's my commitment in January and we'll see how long I can hold that out. It's a wise resolution. It is. It's a hard one. And you make is not easy. I'll tell you what, it's so much harder in Indiana because usually, you know, in, in January you make the resolution to get healthy, you get out and you run a little bit. But here I'm not running in that, so.

Adam Scholtes:             Nope, no ice on the ground and snow. Yeah,

Danny Lopez:                A little bit more of a challenge. Just like rocky in Siberia.

Adam Scholtes:             So second question then with Christmas, just wrapping up, what's, what's the best Christmas gift you've ever gotten?

Danny Lopez:                So the one that jumps out at me, so being in the seventies, eighties and bron in the seventies and grew up in the eighties. Uh, I was uh, he-man guy and so we lived in a little, uh, we lived in a little one bedroom apartment in, uh, in, in sort of the western part of Miami Dade County and we were transitioning between homes and I vividly remember getting castle grey skull and He- man and skeletaltor and I had that thing forever. It's so bad that a couple years ago my sister got me the dvds of the show and tee shirts and He- man and all that kind of stuff and which I really can't wear all that often because my wife won't go out with me if I'm wearing those, those shirts. But uh, but that's the one that really does jump out at me. I'll never forget that.

Kofi Darku:                   So when you're watching those he-man episodes does it hold up?

Danny Lopez:                Oh God, they're awesome. Yeah. Well, I mean, you watch these things, they got good lessons there, you know, its positive, you know, you've watched so much stuff now and I feel like they're kind of an old, old man saying this, but it's true. I mean, you watch so much stuff now and it's just so snarky and everybody's taking shots at each other. Even in the cartoon he, man, it was positive. It was Kinda dumb, but it was, it was awesome.

Adam Scholtes:             So are you just binge watching these? Like for days on end?

Danny Lopez:                But I, I do, I did, I did when I got them. And now I tried to get my son, my son's four and a half. I tried to get them into it and it's funny because the uh, the animation is so he didn't, he didn't watch a whole lot, but even between even things like peppa pig and other things, I mean the animation is so slow. That I think sometimes he's just looking at it and kind of looking at me going, what is this? How does anybody watching this? But we're going to try anyway.

Adam Scholtes:             Kids now they have pixar. It's like it looks like they're talking to you and me.

Danny Lopez:                Right. It's totally different. That's right. That's right. So, but that's one that'll jump out.

Kofi Darku:                   Well, I was born in the seventies, grew up in the 80's. So I relate, but let's, let's step out of memory lane and let's jump back into 2019 and it's so good to have you on the show because we can talk about some high level goals for Indiana. Um, and as your chairman of the Governor's workforce cabinet, can you give us some background on your role and what you are doing in that position

Danny Lopez:                So just a little bit of background on how we came to be. So every state has a state workforce board that's really responsible for coordinating the workforce activities for the state across different agencies. Um, our state workforce board here in Indiana for a long time was under the Department of Workforce Development, uh, and it was staffed by the Department of Workforce Development. And so what the governor did in 2018 was pull that out from underneath the agency and I was his deputy chief at the time. I did essentially state operations and um, and he said, well, you're going to chair it. And so we reconstituted the board. We made it. We took it from about 50 people down to a manageable group of 21 people. And includes our agency heads that work in this space, but then also ivy tech and uh, and Vincennes and then just business people. And the governor was really intentional about not having, you know, the associations in the chambers of commerce and you know, and sort of the usual suspects who, whose job is, it is a who we love, but whose job it is really to hang around the state house, make policy and informed policy. We really wanted practitioners. We want people who are out across the state of diverse group of, of employers who are actually doing the work. Now, the challenge with that is that when you start talking about funding formulas that you start talking about really, uh, you know, you mentioned, you said the word wonky earlier. I mean, that's, that's it. You get into the weeds on policy and people who don't do this for a living who have their businesses to run a, it takes them a bit to catch up. And so there's been a little bit of a learning curve for our members, for our cabinet members. But when you've got people that are doing the real work that are experiencing the challenges in this workforce that are also experiencing the highs, right, the, the humming economy and the strength of this economy and employment, um, and, and can speak to it in very real terms that is invaluable. And so that's, that's what the governor was really going for. And so the role of the cabinet is really to think and the, and the, and really the reason he brought this under his under him and his office, it was because we wanted to think about workforce a little bit differently and this kind of economy with, you know, pretty much full employment. Um, workforce means healthcare. It means housing and transportation. It means everything in the pre K to career pipeline. It doesn't just mean, you know, adults and training programs for adults or Ivy Ttech or Vincences or higher it. I mean, it really doesn't mean the continuum. And so when we think about the investments that we've made a, this, this administration and made it actually the legislature has made in a bipartisan way, I mean doubling funding for pre k making stem and computer science mandatory in every school having career exploration starting this year in every school mandatory, um, graduation pathways, I mean graduation pathways or something so that are game changers. And I hear more from other people in other states, my counterparts about graduation pathways than anything else. And that essentially means that your kids, every kid in the state of Indiana, uh, we're, we're taking it from this kind of end of year assessment model where you pass this 10th grade exam and that's what determines your ability to get through to a diploma and graduation on time to essentially that one size fits all mentality to these pathways. So now, yeah, you're getting a kid is striving towards a diploma and is going to hit that diploma, but they also have to demonstrate employability. So every kid is going to have work based learning or project based learning or service based learning at some point in there ninth through 12 educational career to check a box and every kid is gonna have to demonstrate postsecondary readiness, so every kid is going to have to have a baseline score on the SAT or ACT. Every kid is going to have to have dual credit. Every kid is going to have to have an industry recognized credential. One of those to check that box as well. So then you've got these three boxes. So the other thing that's done is it's given an avenue for these locally created pathway. So you've got businesses that are partnering with schools all across the state to say here's what our region needs, not just now, but this is what our region is going to need for the next 10 years, 15 years, 20 years. How do we create a real pipeline in the schools so that we build curriculum that flows right into postsecondary and then right into the workplace in Madison County or in St Joe County. And so that's a powerful tool. So graduation pathways really are a game changer. And then you think about the fact that we've made Vincences and Ivy Tech for six fields are key industries, whether it's transportation or logistics or advanced manufacturing, health sciences, IT, agriculture. We have buildings and trades, we've made those technical certificates, 18 credit hours, free to pretty much any Hoosier. So we will pay last dollar for those, for those certificate programs. Um, so we put these things all along the pipeline in place. But the one piece that I think the governor recognized was missing was we've got so many agencies that play in this space and there weren't a set of common goals across these agencies. And so having everybody now really working in a different way, try and get out of their silos. That's really what the function of the cabinet is, uh, is, is to bring all these players together and go, okay, so for the betterment of the state, how are we approaching healthcare from a workforce development standpoint? How are we approaching transportation from a workforce development standpoint? And how are we solving these problems in collaboration?

Adam Scholtes:             That's good. You mentioned career exploration and recently read Indystar article about Governor Holcomb's 2019 agenda on it mentioned dollars for a one semester career exploration for high school students. Can we dig into a little bit, how does, how's that gonna work? What does that, what does that look like?

Danny Lopez:                So what we're proposing is having every student in the state of Indiana and they're ninth or 10th year or ninth or 10th grade, uh, take a one semester exploration course that really is looking at career and technical education clusters, right? So career clusters and not just this specific occupation, but rather, you know, so you, you, you may, you may think your interest is in the health sciences somewhere, health sciences somewhere, whether you want to be an oncologist or you want to get off on an off ramp and be an RN or you want to or anything in between. Here's what that pathway looks like. Here are the boxes from an educational standpoint, from a work experience standpoint that you better be checking whether you're, you know, start to starting to think about that in 10th grade, 11th grade, twelfth grade. Right now, uh, that happens in a lot of places, but it's a little bit scatter shot and we just think, you know, one of the big pushes, we've got 25,000 kids roughly every single year, get to high school completion and have no post secondary plans. They don't have any college credential, they don't have any postsecondary credential at all, no training, that's a leaky pipeline. And so what we want to make sure we're doing is trying to grab these kids early on in their career and layout, help them lay out their pathway to whatever it is that they want to do so that they know the exact steps they got to take from an academic, from a workplace standpoint, uh, to get where they want to go.

Adam Scholtes:             Do you have any employer partners right now that are going to participate?

Danny Lopez:                So, on the, on the career navigation side, we do. So what we've pieced together, again, Indianapolis, Indianapolis solutions rarely work outside of Indianapolis, right? Creating mandates from the State House for the rest of the state really rarely works. And so what we've done instead is we've said, look, let's, let's set aside a little bit of money and let's have regions of the state who are self selecting, let's have them in an employer driven way come back to us and tell us what solutions look like around career navigation in their area. So, you know, we're in the process of the cabinets and the process of building out those parameters now, but essentially, you know, you're going to have to have education partner. So school signing on the dotted line saying we're onboard edgy or a industry clusters and industry sectors, uh, actual employers, philanthropy matching grants at the local level, but they're going to come back and tell us, you know, here's the technology that we need. Here's the manpower that we need. Here are the tools we're going to build. Here's how we're going to better leverage purdue extension's. Here's what we're going to better leverage staffing companies in our area. Here's what we're going to better leverage Ivy Tech's or WorkOne centers. These are all assets that are a little bit disjointed right now. They're all sort of working in the same way. Well, we want to do is put some dollars on the table to get them synchronized specifically in the direction of career navigation and coaching in the high school.

Kofi Darku:                   I'm really curious, and we may not have an answer that is a nicely packaged yet, but we're aware that we have this leaky pipeline. We have, um, despite a strong going to college culture, we still a lot of students that they finished their high school career and they're not going to college. Is there any plan to do a better job to reach them sooner? How do we engage them so that we can help them connect with some of these immediate opportunities that we know are good for our economy?

Danny Lopez:                Well, the Next Level Jobs program really is targeted at that. And, and that's one of the, that is one of the focal points for this coming legislative session that we're in a really is, is, um, look it, it's, it's a tricky thing because we never want to be discouraging kids from pursuing traditional four year college, bachelor's degrees, advanced degrees. We want more, in fact, when you compare us to the rest of the country, I mean we've had a 13, we've had an eight percent jump in the last year from 16 to 17. We had an eight percent jump in stem related bachelor's degrees. We had a four percent jump in bachelor's degrees as a, as a whole. Um, those numbers from 17 to 18, we don't have them yet, but they're going to go up. Our educational attainment rate, rosed two and a half points, outpace the national average and all of that growth has happened. Almost all of that growth is happening with people from 25 to 45 years old. So we're moving the needle with the right populations. So we are making strides when it comes to getting people and attend a completion rates are up in the four year space. And so I think we're doing a better job of moving people towards advanced degrees or bachelor's degrees. You're right when you've got this many kids that just don't go on to anything or don't complete anything. You've got a problem. And we have had a culture where every kid, that's the solution, you've got to go to college, you got to go to a traditional four year college. And for a lot of kids, that's not the answer right now. We never want to say that's not the answer, but the model has changed. You know, you for a long time you had this model where first you learn, then you go earn. And the reality is that that's flipped. That's not this economy, right? So we've got to get these kids thinking, Hey, if you get yourself into a short term program to get yourself some work experience, maybe get a technical certificate or associate's, it's okay if you're getting your bachelor's degree when you're 30, but you've got a whole swath of real life experience that makes you marketable to employers in the state. We haven't approached it that way. So we're trying to use career and technical education in the high school space better. We think graduation pathways, again, like I referenced with work based learning, that's an essential component of this, uh, is going to be an important tool without getting at that too. But look, the truth is we've gotta we've gotta turn off the spigot because if we keep hemorrhaging a five to 35,000 kids every year who get through high school and they don't know what they're doing after and are getting any postsecondary screen. So what we know is that a high school diploma is just not good enough anymore and that doesn't mean every kid is going on IU, but you got to get some kind of training that makes you marketable post, you know, post high school. And so number one, how do we get that message to kids and parents, how do we give them tools to keep going? So workforce ready grant and other things that I've already read, but you know, putting money in the hands of employers through training, since people are working, get money in the hands of employers, let them do training. But the other thing too is how do we take that 25,000 kids and blur the lines between college and high school? How are we getting more of those, those kids in high school, a technical certificate before they ever leave high school. We're already paying for them in high school and so that's going be a lot of the focal point this year and how we fund $150,000,000 almost in career and technical education every year that we spend, how do we take that money and ensure that we're getting more and more and more kids, those post secondary credentials before they ever walk off campus.

Kofi Darku:                   I think it's critical to not only get that, that message to the students, but to parents also because obviously it's a cultural thing where a parent may feel they're not doing their kid the greatest justice by pushing them to a four year colleges, but obviously it's no longer learn to earn. We have opportunities where we can get people to experience much sooner and they can make a good income. That then allows them to be more thoughtful about how they invest for 40 minutes.

Danny Lopez:                That what you just said is the key, right? Because for a long time it's been this conversation with parents around, um, you know, it, you don't have to go to college and if your kid just get through high school and goes into this particular industry or whatever, you know, they'll come out of high school making $50,000. Okay. Which is great, but a lot of parents look at that and they go, yeah, but my kid's going to be 55, making $50,000. And so we, we've done a, a poor job I think of is demonstrating the career pathway, right? It's not that the advanced degree is not the ultimately the right way to go, it's that it's not right. It doesn't have to be right now, get yourself in, get yourself work experience. Here's what the career pathway, here's what it looks like if you're an entrepreneur, if you're entrepreneurial minded person, here's what it looks like. If you want to go into management, here's what I mean. Here are all the ways that you can take these technical certificates because a lot of parents and influencers as teachers as well struggle with that. They'll tell you, they'll tell the kids, you know, that's great, but I don't want you to make them 50 grand breaking your back forever when in actuality there's so many different ways you can take these technical certificates where you might start out in an advanced manufacturing setting on the floor, but that, that is not where you're going to end up. But we've got to do a better job communicating that.

Adam Scholtes:             Last Thanksgiving, quick personal note. So I have a young seven month old son and um, I was talking to my, my father over Thanksgiving last year regarding the 529 plans and what we're setting up and when I was talking to about this podcast and some of the discussions we've had around, you know, is a four year degree right after high school. What you need to be doing. And you look at me as you're nuts. He's like, my grandson will be getting a four year degree and cope. You hit the nail on the head. We've got to educate the parents because I got a grandfather right now go and my son's grandfather going, now this is what you do. And I, we talked about it for about an hour and at the end he goes, oh, I get it. I have a younger brother who kind of jumps in the conversation too. And he goes, Dad, now like this is, this is what we need to be doing. We need to be getting them to think of there's other pathways. And I love how you talked about that.

Danny Lopez:                That's it. It's not that there's any right way to do it, it's that we've got to make sure that the people, kids, their parents have the proper information to make the decision that's best for them. If that's Purdue, awesome, awesome. If that's Vincences and a technical certificate, awesome. Uh, you know, it's not an either or, it's just that we've provided a lot of really good information on, on the one hand that about all the opportunities that exist in the four year space and very little information about the pathways that exist, uh, with shorter term credentials.

Kofi Darku:                   I mean, your response at the beginning of this episode sums that up. And thank you by the way, for that great data you shared because for our first episode in 2019 were coming in strong with the data, but the reason why we have so much data about how we perform two year four year is because that has seemed like the silver bullet to help all of our communities get to that next level. But our times have changed. And I think what I'm saying is that we have to communicate to parents that college is not the silver bullet and there are many, many different ways to provide a great life for your child. But let's rethink how we can help them do that in shorter steps as opposed to this one very simple solution that's usually very costly and may not even put the student in a position that is going to help them with their future.

Danny Lopez:                That's, that's, that's a very real issue, right? We've got employers who may not have robust hr functions, who, you know, who's, who struggle with, with, uh, with people and say there's a shortage and they can't. They can't tap into the pools that are available to them. And really when you do a little bit of digging and you guys as you've referenced, know this better than I do, you do a little digging and you come to find out that they're putting up sometimes artificial barriers because they may not know how to write a job description in a way that, you know, uh, clearly articulates what their actual need is, what the competencies, the skills that are needed as opposed to, I need a bachelor's degree. Well, no, no, you don't. No, you don't what you need or x, Y, and z. But that's easy for us to say. Obviously. I mean, you, like I said, you guys live it. It's easy for me to say. It's easy for us to say it's hard when, uh, you know, when you're a small business or a medium sized business and you're really just trying to get to what's next month going to look like our next year going to look like. So we understand that one of the blessings that we've had is that I think it's, um, it was a big deal. It was a big announcement for us last year, uh, in, in the fall of 2018 because of, uh, because it was a validation of the work that the governor is doing under next level jobs with this next level jobs initiative. Um, but it was also kind of a validation of where we're headed as a state. So the Markle Foundation, which is a big national foundation, uh, has an initiative called Skillful and Skillful, a named Colorado in 2015, 16. their skillful state. And what that really meant was they partnered with Microsoft, they partnered with Linkedin and they created these tools that they brought to employers, uh, to help them think differently about their, the needed skillset. So thinking more deliberately about competency based hiring and really hiring to what their need is. Uh, and, and Beth Colbert, who is their CEO on Colorado, you know, she used some pretty good examples when she was here in the fall and sin one of the most glaring, you know, they were, they were working with a contact lens manufacturer really needed a lot of people with a lot of dexterity in their hands, right. Was a really small tools and really kind of a lot of dexterity in the skillset and the manufacturing setting and they just could not find people to do this work and Skillful worked with them. They really thought about what they needed. They ended up going out and hiring Sushi chefs and, and, and now that's what they hire for that position and they, you know, they got past their shortage. So just thinking a little bit different, that's an extreme example, but thinking a little bit differently about what it is that you need and so skillful in the fall came to us and said, we want to make Indiana or second Skillful State. So Indiana is now the second Skillful State. We've partnered with Microsoft, Lumina, Walmart, um, and uh, and, and the Markle Foundation and so they're coming up alongside the governor, working with our local workforce boards all throughout the state to engage employers and really challenged them with a tool box to think differently about hiring for what they need, not putting artificial barriers in place. So the more that we can do that, help employers think through through that, I think there's so many talented hoosiers out there that can do these jobs really well, but who may not have the degree. Yeah. And if you're using that degree is an artificial filter and you don't really need it, then that's a problem. It's contributing to the, to the, to this perceived shorter the or the shortage that exists. I won't say perceived sort of put the shortage that exists in part because we're not aligning what businesses say they need with the skill set that's actually existing.

Kofi Darku:                   And something we see with our workforce development. I love the Skillful approach. That alignment is critical, but then from the potential employee perspective, we're trying to make sure that they're more coaches out there. And I, I see that Skillfull has a strong coach component so that we can hold their hand and get them through to that juncture so that once we get all this alignment lined up, boom, we got someone ready. So I'm so happy that you mentioned Skillful because they are inspirational.

Danny Lopez:                We're excited about that. And like I said, you know, they've, they've, they've the Markle Foundation has put a lot of resources behind this. They brought the right partners to the table and when we began conversations and they started telling us we're coming to Indiana, then they made the announcement. I mean, I think sometimes I can, I can say this as somebody that moved here, is not from here originally, uh, you know, the, the, um, the Hoosier sort of humility is, it's got this charm, you know, it's nice, but like at some point we have got to get excited about the gains that we're making. It's not that we're batting a thousand, uh, but no state is, this is a global problem. This isn't even a US problem. It's a global problem or challenge. And we are making the right kinds of investments, we're seeing the right kinds of gains, we've got a long way to go, but we're making investments that other states, number one, uh, haven't thought to make a number two, can't afford to make, um, and we're, we're investing in our people. And so we're excited about the outcome so far. We're excited about what's to come in 2019.

Adam Scholtes:             Danny, where would you say Indiana is ranked in, in your travels, and in terms of like you just said, like, we're making gains, we're doing this. We still have a road where, where do we rank in the country?

Danny Lopez:                So for educational attainment specifically, we've got a goal which is to get a by 2025, it's 60 percent of adult hoosier's, um, uh, with or have 60 percent of adult hoosier's working age hoosier's, which is 25 to 64 is defined by the, by the, uh, census, uh, with a high value credential of some kind of badge or certificate, degree associate's, bachelor's beyond. Um, right now we're at 43, little over 43 percent were uh, we've inched up probably about three spots in the last or the last year and change again, like I said, through 2018, we probably saw more of that. We've got a long way to go. I mean, there's no doubt about it, but, but the gains comparatively speaking to where other states are, are, are, are making, we're outpacing every other state pretty much every other state in the country. Um, so. And again, because we're seeing it with, with younger hoosiers, I think that's really telling us that, that we're moving in the right direction. I mean from 27, from 2016 to 2017 in that age range, we had 50,000 more Hoosier's in that age range with a high value credentialed than the year before. Wow. So that's a big jump and that employers are going to notice that. And from 2017 to 2018, that number is gonna be even bigger. So, uh, so we're moving in the right direction. We're going to get there. There's no doubt. Now the question is, do we have the sense of urgency to get there in time. Right? Everybody's trying to beat the clock. We're trying to keep the, the, uh, the economy humming, and we've been blessed in Indiana. So, uh, you know, when you look around our surrounding states are contiguous states in the Midwest, there's, there's five, I think it's, well maybe six growth regions, metro metro regions that have experienced three percent or above employment growth over the last several years I have of them are in Indiana. So employment growth has been strong. Uh, obviously unemployment is huge here where we're ahead of the national average and labor participation. We're seeing that educational gains starting to happen, which is a big culture change for us. It makes you optimistic. I mean, I can tell you there's probably 40 something states that would love to have our stats right now. Again, we have got to instill a sense of lifelong learning and who is just, it's a, it's an economy that has been very reliant for very, very long time on low skill, uh, labor and, and with, you know, the growth of the tech economy. And Tech, not just sort of downtown Salesforce, appirio, Infosys type tech, which is an important component to the ecosystem here. Every, every manufacturer in the State of Indiana is infusing tech. Every agriculture outfit is infusing tech and so what does that look like for education? And that's why the stem mandate in the schools. That's why the graduation pathways, that's why workforce ready grants, that's really the underlying foundation behind a next level jobs.

Kofi Darku:                   Wow. That was like an extra Christmas present after the New Year. So this is great.

Danny Lopez:                Well, I'm going to remember this more than even He-Man. Gives my castle grayskull this is the best Christmas ever.

Kofi Darku:                   Well, we always are proud to bring people into the room so that they can hear and learn about what promising practices are out there and I feel better about where we are as a state. But yes, the challenge is still out there. Over the next 10 years we got a lot of jobs to fill, but thank goodness the governor's workforce cabinet is thinking about ways we can be prepared to make that growth happen. Danny, thank you for being on the Skill Up Build Up podcast.

Danny Lopez:                Thanks you guys. I appreciate it and I'm always available. So we'll talk to you soon.

Kofi Darku:                   Talk about an affirmation. There is validation that Indiana is on the right path due to the focus that we're getting from the Skillful push. We are the second state only to Colorado to have this initiative that is funded by some heavy hitters to make sure we do a better job of engaging our workforce and I take it seriously. Let's, let's continue with this momentum and this sign of validation.

Adam Scholtes:             Yeah. And he didn't mention it on the podcast Kofi, but if you want more information on Skillful, go to a That's M A R K L E dot Org. Um, you know, what struck out to me, uh, what was he talked about the leaky pipeline. 25,000 students graduate without postsecondary plans each year. Um, and just the need to create and educate our population on more pathways going forward. If you want to continue the conversation, follow us at Looking forward to another conversation next week.