Kofi Darku:                   On this episode we have Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne, not only telling us why the Next Level Jobs initiative was started, but who it helps the employers and the employees, plus many other critical things for the state of Indiana and our nation. Let's go.

Speaker 1:                    Welcome to another episode of the skill Up Build Up podcast, powered by the Morales Group where we are leading talent to thrive. On today's episode, we have Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne. And to jump right in during the pre show, Fred, I believe you grew up in Louisiana. So, uh, we're trying to understand who you follow football wise, what's your team?

Fred Payne:                  Yes, I did grow up in Louisiana, although I do enjoy a big 10 football, but I am an SCC fan. I'm an Auburn and LSU follower.

Kofi Darku:                   Wow. Splitting, splitting the loyalty's there. But, uh, so you're both followers. Who do you pull for more though out of Auburn and LSU?

Fred Payne:                  A pull for Auburn mainly because a lot of the people that are grow up with guys I grew up with a during the time when I was in high school and college will recruit it and went to Auburn and plate, so I developed a following because I followed my friends

Adam Scholtes:             With being a hoosier you gotta follow big 10 basketball, right?

Fred Payne:                  Absolutely. There's nothing better than big 10 basketball. I love to watch IU play. Believe it or not. I love to watch the Buckeyes play.

Adam Scholtes:             Now, do you still get down there for some IU games?

Fred Payne:                  I haven't. Uh, in the, in the most recent past. I haven't been. But historically i have.

Kofi Darku:                   Well we really brought you on this show to talk about your role in the workforce development area. So can you tell us what the job of commissioner consists of and how you're leading the state in our workforce development efforts?

Fred Payne:                  Okay. Oh, good question. Well, first off I'll start with saying what the Department of Workforce Development does. The Indiana Department of workforce development is responsible for the state employment and reemployment services. And what that means is that we oversee two really distinct areas in the state when it comes to employment or reemployment. First is our unemployment insurance trust fund. Our agency oversees and administers that unemployment insurance trust fund. So when individuals are out of work due to no reason of their own, they receive benefits to help bridge them to their next job. So the agency oversees those efforts. Secondly, when it comes to remployment and employment, we look at training and retraining. So the agency is responsible for direction and training and retraining of employees throughout our state. When it comes to the office of work based learning and apprenticeship, it's something that we recently started by executive order back in March of 2018. So two big areas, training and retraining employees and connecting them with employers and also unemployment insurance trust fund and connecting individuals to benefits to bridge them to their next job. And as the commissioner, uh, I serve as the chief executive of that, of that agency. Uh, which helps too. I help to set direction and vision that's consistent with the governor's vision for workforce development throughout the state.

Adam Scholtes:             So it sounds like you've got a lot on your plate. You know, we talked a lot about some tools right and the analytics. I'm sure you probably diving into a lot of like analytics of how are some of these initiatives working, what, what levels, what levels, what levers are you pulling to help make an impact? So can you share with us how the, the, the, the Department of Workforce Development has focused resources on analytics and forecasting tools. Then what's that doing to help, um, to help drive what you guys are doing with your initiatives?

Fred Payne:                  We look very closely at jobs, job forecasting, and just where the jobs are in job growth. So each month we take a look at the jobs that are in the state, the jobs that are posted. We have dashboards that we've created internally so that we can track and that we can forecast a job growth and job development. So each month we'll have sort of a listing internally on where the jobs have grown over the particular month. The job listings that are out there and what that does is that allows us to focus our training efforts and our resources for the individuals, for the state of Indiana, for example. Uh, if we see that there's a lot of job growth in the tech sector, we can end up focusing our resources on ensuring that individuals are aware of that and that they can get the resources they need to train up for that particular sector.

Kofi Darku:                   Now, every organization, every company has KPI's and metrics. Does the Department of Workforce Development have a dashboard? So you're talking about that, but how does that help you understand the health of the programs and the initiatives and the sectors that you're trying to grow in?

Fred Payne:                  Sure. Just like any, a well run organization, we do have internal key performance indicators. Some of those indicators allow us to forecast on what we need to do, but some of them are lagging indicator. Say indicate you know, things that we probably should have done, we, we may need to correct. So we have those performance indicators and the unemployment area, particularly, uh, the most important thing is ensuring that the right individuals are getting their benefits as quickly as possible. So we want to ensure that we have quickness and ensuring that they are, uh, getting attached to those resources in the workforce area, in the training area. We want to ensure that we are getting individuals the right training and that we are working with employers to understand what training is needed so that we can work with our training providers to provide the right type of training. One of the things that we're starting to do is to ensure that we're focusing our state efforts on three particular indicators, three particular metrics. We want to ensure that we are connecting individuals to a job. That we are engaging with employers and individuals and that we're seeing wage growth. So those are three of the metrics that we're going to track very closely, uh, of this year and the years to come.

Adam Scholtes:             Now, how are you guys tracking or how are you guys impacting the wage growth? Because is that more of an external factor that you guys don't really love where you guys can pull?

Fred Payne:                  That's not necessarily a lever that we pulled directly, but indirectly if we focus the training on those high wage, high growth, high demand job areas, right. What we're doing is we're providing information and resources so that individuals can get the training that they need so that they can go after the jobs that are in high demand and just that may have a higher wage. So ultimately that could impact the overall wage growth.

Adam Scholtes:             Makes a lot of sense. Okay. Um, can you tell us about a specific program that you see working right now in the Indiana business community? What's, what's, what's the one on today that's really making an impact?

Fred Payne:                  Sure. So Governor Holcomb has what's called the Next Level Agenda and under his next level agenda, essentially the governor wants to ensure that businesses and individuals have the resources and information that they need to reach their next level. And under the next level agenda, we have something called Next Level Jobs. And in our next level jobs initiatives, it's something that's focused on both individuals and the employers. So I'll talk about the employer first and what is actually impacting the employer community. So under Next Level Jobs we have what's called the employer training grant program and this is a program that provides a employer's $5,000 per employee up to $50,000 per employer to incentivize them to hire, train and retain employees. And right now we have about 450 employers who are engaged in our employer training program training over 7,000 individuals. So from what's working one of our initiatives, we see that as one of our initiatives that is directly working at impacting employers with a number of people they are training and just the number of a number of employers that are engaged with the program. So that's the employer side. On the individual side, we have what we call the Workforce Ready Grant program and under the Workforce Ready Grant Program, this is what we're kind of used some of our forecasting tools and our analytics. We look at jobs that are high growth, high demand, high wage jobs. And we're focusing our resources and providing training for individuals who want to get the training to skill themselves up for one of those high wage, high demand jobs. And under the workforce ready grant program, if an individual sees their training that they desire, that's in one of those high wage, high demand job areas, they can receive free training. So the Workforce Ready Grant Program provides free training for individuals who want to go into work or get trying to get one of those high wage, high growth, high demand areas that program, those programs under next level jobs, uh, are working because we have the individuals who are engaged in the program and the employers who are engaged in the program.

Kofi Darku:                   Yeah, I'm really grateful to hear you speak about the next level jobs program and this next level initiatives simply because your approach from two sides, how you're approaching employers to support them in trying to skill up their staff, but then also the path that you give for individuals to self select and find areas where they need more training to also skill up. I think is extremely valuable in our current climate. Uh, we, we often talk about how there's a war for talent due to the fact that there's a lot of companies that are doing well and as a result, looking for more people to bring on board to help them achieve their bottom lines and in so doing, you have opportunity, but then not a lot of people realize how they can get those skills to get those jobs. And so, uh, what I really love about next level is you're really helping those individuals leverage something which can be quite daunting, which is not only the training but the actual money for the training as well. So that's critical.

Fred Payne:                  We wanted to sure that individuals really are honored journey for lifelong learning is that we know that the jobs that will be created over the next 10 years, many of those jobs wouldn't need more than a postsecondary education. So we want to focus our attention on credential attainment. And part of the focus on a credential attainment is ensuring that the resources are there for individuals who want to end up getting those credentials.

Kofi Darku:                   Yeah, at Morales Group we have been fortunate to work with, uh, dozens if not hundreds of companies, uh, as they've been doing well in the light industrial sector, manufacturing, logistics sectors. However, we realize we're at a very advantageous point to try and help more people skill up, you know, as we've gotten people into entry level jobs, how can we create a path for them to get to those better jobs. We call them b jobs because of there's a hierarchy of a is your, like entry level or any job and right now with the economy doing well, anyone can get any job, but we want more people to get to those b better jobs and eventually to C career. Um, and so, uh, it's, it's really encouraging to know that we're in a state that's really supportive of getting more people to better jobs.

Fred Payne:                  And one of the things that we often say internally of when we're trying to work with individuals who, um, want to, uh, get a job, we, we call it the ABC principle, a job, a better job or career. And if we're doing the things that we know that we can do with the resources that we have, we think that a job, a better job or career is another way of saying that we have an individual that we've helped to have lifelong learning.

Adam Scholtes:             What else? It sounds like you're, you're, you're a busy guy right now. And what else is going around these initiatives happening around the country as well? Or what are you seeing on kind of a macro level in other states?

Fred Payne:                  Sure. There are a variety of things going on in different states. Different states have different workforce needs and challenges. By and large, we are seeing, um, a, probably a record, low unemployment rates throughout the country. One of the things that has taken off and it's not necessarily innovative, but there's more national and local attention on it. It really is apprenticeship and work based learning. And, uh, earlier last summer, uh, the, uh, this administration signed executive orders indicating and, and, and having a priority on apprenticeships and upskilling more workers under apprenticeship and work based learning programs. As I mentioned earlier in this podcast, uh, the governor signed an executive order back in March of 2018 creating the states, uh, office of work based learning and apprenticeships. So we are focused on ensuring that there's a pathway for true apprenticeships, which is the component of educational and training, education and training, but we also want to ensure that we are expanding that model to different areas that may not have been traditionally in the apprenticeship space without work based learning model. So we're trying to ensure that we're reaching all of the sectors that we have, tech, healthcare, uh, all of those areas. We want to ensure that there is a path for him for individuals and employers to have some type of work based learning component. So we're not the only state that's doing that. Uh, but again, nationally, there's a focus on ensuring that there is some work based learning and apprenticeship component.

Kofi Darku:                   I couldn't help but notice that those two sectors that you mentioned are two hot sectors. And I, I'm very happy to realize that we're quickly trying to make sure we have paths of apprenticeship to help bolster those workforces because those in demand jobs do pay well and that's great for hoosiers.

Fred Payne:                  And one of the other areas that we're seeing a lot of activity in is that employers are getting creative with their in house training. Employers understand the needs that they have and employers want to ensure that they have on the job training and work based learning components internally. So they're getting creative on that front. Also, employers are getting creative in recruiting as well. I've talked to several employers that are having essentially 24 slash seven our recruiting because they're, their workforce is so diverse and it's, some of these companies are global and because they're a global, uh, they need to recruit 24 slash seven. So the clock never turns off. Um, as far as them getting the talent that they need.

Kofi Darku:                   Well, we've, we've touched on some great things here, but we still have some tough questions to hopefully, uh, unpack and find more information on. Can you please share of information about Indiana Workforce Development Goals for either 2020, 2025 or any other timeline that you have set in terms of where you want to see Indiana in regards to workforce development?

Fred Payne:                  Sure. We are again, focusing on credential attainment. Uh, our state has a goal of ensuring that 60 percent of our people have a postsecondary credential or education by 2025. So our goal is, and our focus is really on ensuring that individuals are getting their credentials that they need so that they can live their best lives. So that's one. The other one is part of the governor's state of the state goals from last year for 2020 when it comes to work based learning and apprenticeships. He's a made a request for us, a goal for us to have a 25,000 apprentices work based learning participants by the end of 2019. So we started that in 2018 and we're on track for that, uh, with regard to jobs for America's graduates, um, a program that we have throughout our state. It's a national program that focuses on dropout prevention because we know that individuals who complete high school have a greater opportunity of living a life with a fair wage better than those who do not. So there's a focus on a graduation and graduation pathways, but for the individuals who may be on track for not completing high school, there's the jobs for America's Graduates Program and the governor has tasked us with increasing the number of schools throughout the state that have jobs for America's graduates program, a to 250 more schools by 2025. So those are just a few of the goals that we have a set in motion that are consistent with, uh, the governor's goals. But our internal goals with our agency is to ensure that we actually have what we call a good workforce hygiene. And when I say good workforce, just like a good hygiene promotes good health, good health promotes a good, strong, a hopefully healthy life. So if we have a strong workforce hygiene, we want to that ensures that we have good workforce health. And the way that we do that is focusing on three areas that we believe make a strong workforce development system. The first one is a engagement. That we continue to engage with our communities, with employers and with educators to ensure that we're having the right conversations at the right time. So engagement is one. The second one is appropriate training. The engagement leads to proper discussion, which leads to appropriate training for our employees and for individuals who are trying to get into the workforce or who are trying to reach their next level. And the third one is a constant review of those two. As we know that the best, uh, plans, if you don't constantly reviewed them, uh, you may miss an opportunity to course correct. So we want to make sure we're doing those and we think that if we lay the foundation and if we strengthen those three characteristics, we have good workforce hygiene, which leads to a strong, healthy workforce system.

Kofi Darku:                   Well said. Well said.

Adam Scholtes:             Great stuff today. Where can our audience go out and find more information. A lot of these topics that you're touching on or you know or didn't want to just get some more personal involvement for themselves. Is there a website that we can direct them to?

Fred Payne:                  Sure. The general website is www.dwd.gov but in terms of our next level jobs and the governor's next level agenda where individuals can find information on the employer training grant program and the Workforce Ready Grant Program. That website is specifically nextleveljobs.org .

Kofi Darku:                   Those are some tremendous, tremendous numbers. You decided in terms of 450 employers already connected, 7,000 individuals receiving training through those employers. How do we continue to make that growth? The reality are there. What do we put in place? What does it take at the government level to continue to support that type of growth?

Fred Payne:                  Well, we have strong support right now from our administration as this is a Governor Holcomb's agenda, but the legislators are really behind this and they see the growth in it and we are asking for additional moneys to ensure that we can keep these programs moving forward.

Kofi Darku:                   We really appreciate having you on this episode. Commissioner pain, uh, we often talk about being in the room where it happens. You've really unpacked some of the things that are happening at the state level to help bring more of our audience into the room so that they can capitalize on these opportunities as well. Thank you very much. Really loved how there was an indepth focus on the next level jobs initiative and what that pertains. Thought he did an excellent job of unpacking all of that. Also really took away how the main function of the Department of workforce development is about employment and reemployment and how they do that is number one, they're managing the trust fund for unemployment. And then number two, how they're engaging people with job training and retraining. And lastly, the good workforce hygiene. Come on. That's great. That's how we're going to stay on top number one thing for a good workhorse hygiene is continuing to engage with the community employers and educators. Number two is the appropriate training that we're giving the individuals a number three, just focusing on continuous improvement, making sure you're reviewing how you're doing one and two and then making that improvement.

Adam Scholtes:             Yeah. My takeaway Kofi was when I asked him about other innovative initiatives that are going around that are going on around the country and he brought up a work based learning and apprenticeships and I think we have to be in tune to this because there's going to be. A lot of this is going to really come up more and more in other states. Um, and I was happy to hear that we have this going on here in Indiana too, so if you're not aware, the websites that are listed, I would definitely hop on there and get some more info on the work based learning and apprenticeship. And I think we might actually be diving into this topic a little bit later in the year. So a little sneak peak for you guys.

Kofi Darku:                   It would be in our interest to do so.

Adam Scholtes:             Absolutely. So, uh, thanks a lot for joining us on this episode. If you'd like to learn more, you can find us at skillupbuildup.com and we'll talk to you soon.