Kofi Darku:                   00:00               Welcome to the skill up buildup podcast powered by Morales Group. We have a guest today, the Indiana Secretary of Career Connections and Talent, Blair. Milo, welcome.

Blair Milo:                    00:11               Thank you very much.

Kofi Darku:                   00:12               We're so happy to have you in the room where we talk about some of that insight information. Uh, we talk about being in the room because oftentimes people aren't in the room when those key decisions are made that impact what's going to happen on various levels, but especially in the workforce development and business development world. So hopefully our conversation can help us continue with that.

Kofi Darku:                   00:53               So you haven't been in your role for that long, it's a new position. Would you mind telling our listeners what your position entails and what's been going on with you for the past couple of months?

Blair Milo:                    01:03               Sure. Well, with career connections then we're really trying to ensure that Hoosiers are able to connect up with career opportunities that are growing and transitioning in some way. So connecting students and adults with the skills needed in some of the, uh, the transitioning areas and where we see a lot of opportunity growing. So, uh, we have a program that is called Next Level Jobs that is geared towards connecting both individuals and employers up with a training to be able to get the skills necessary for the employees and uh, uh, and then the, the jobs availability, uh, so that's sort of the career connections aspect of things. And the Next Level Jobs program is one aspect of ways that we are working on trying to carry this forward, uh, on the talent side of the house, and it's also then growing talent pipelines, some of which doing it through the career connection aspect and better navigating what the, the world of work looks like, but also then a cultivating opportunities, sharing the message beyond even the borders of Indiana so that then more folks are able to connect up with what the opportunities are here so that we can grow the overall labor force, uh, as we see more and more jobs coming online that estimates right now, show that in the next 10 years we anticipate around a million job openings. But as we've seen over the last year and, and a, the trajectory that we're on this year that the Indiana Economic Development Corporation has shared that we are surpassing goals that we're setting for ourselves for a new job creation. So I anticipate that that 1 million number may actually be low and you know, of challenges to have as those are good ones, but it's just a matter of that we need to make sure that we're connecting people to the opportunity that's being created and then ensuring that our businesses are able to see the return on investment that they're making in Indiana by having a 21st century workforce.

Kofi Darku:                   03:09               Excellent. If I'm correct, have you been touring the state? Have you gone to every county sharing these messages? Can you tell us about that?

Blair Milo:                    03:20               Well, so far I've been touring the state a ton and um, so far we've made it intentionally to 14 counties, but we're on the path to doing county by county, meeting with all the different stakeholders in the field that in some places will see people that are already interacting with one another pretty regularly and they're doing some collaborative things, really innovative things. And when I talk about stakeholders, I, I'm referencing, you know, k through 12 educators and administrators and great people and CTE directors or career and technical education, a higher ed educators. So some of the community college space with Ivy Tech, uh, also working with Vincennes, but also our, our four year institutions as well or independent colleges, uh, and with employers than to have everybody be a part of the conversation bringing local government and, and community foundations to build out ecosystems and whether that ecosystem exists at a community level or a regional level or at a countywide level.

Blair Milo:                    04:23               It varies in different capacities. Uh, but like I said, thus far, we've been able to do that specifically in 14 different counties. We had to pause a bit to be able to do the legislative session and work through a couple of workforce bills that we were very excited, we're able to advance thanks to a partnership with the leadership in the legislature and the full bodies. Uh, but then we're headed back out here shortly. It quite honestly, it's a bit of a struggle because there's just so many different things going on that trying to be intentional about, uh, the, the remaining counties of which we really are excited to get to, just trying to balance all the different demands in the schedule is a little bit crazy, but it's all exciting because we're seeing such innovation happen in, in many different areas. And it's great to be able to share lessons learned in a folks decided not to do certain things or that this particular concept has really worked well in certain areas.

Blair Milo:                    05:23               Uh, it's great to be able to share and to see that, that, that there's just tremendous work going on amongst our local entities and regional groups, and, um, that's, that's actually gaining attention I think nationally too with the different organizations that are wanting to come to Indiana and see how we're doing some different things. Uh, and I know that Columbus has their, they have a talent hub that has been a part of Lumina's, uh, groups that they've noted nationally as they're looking at different cities and they're helping share some of the success elements of what's happened in Columbus and other places. Uh, so Indiana is, is rising to the forefront of places where, you know, certainly we have some, some pieces to still work through, but uh, that we're being recognized as a place that is being innovative and, and taking action in creative ways. And it just, everybody's happened to explore new ideas in this space because the world of work is changing.

Kofi Darku:                   06:23               Yeah. We're all about innovation. That new knowledge on this podcast. Um, forgive me as most of my questions today will lean towards the talent development and workforce development side. Obviously there are implications for...

Blair Milo:                    06:38               I'm a little bit passionate about that area so that's great.

Kofi Darku:                   06:40               That's why I'm taking the time to do this. While we have you on this show. You spoke of learning from different parts of the state. That's the main reason why I asked that. Are there any strategies that are currently happening in the state or in specific regions that you know of that are focused on how to utilize the unemployed or the underemployed? Knowing that we have such a large number of jobs to fill, what strategies are out there that are trying to focus on those populations?

Blair Milo:                    07:10               Well, I'll tell you, I think that a key in solutions and this whole space of whether it's underemployed unemployed, uh, connecting people up to new skills is, are the earn and learn opportunities and so when people have the chance to earn a wage while they're also learning specific jobs skills or future job skills, then you're, you're removing some of the challenge that I think is existing, particularly for underemployed individuals that they are, there's, there's a struggle to move along an economic mobility spectrum because you're making a decision between earning or learning and many people don't have the ability to make that decision. To say, I'm going to step away from earning a wage so that I can learn a new skill, and so if we can create as many of those earn and learn opportunities, then I think that's the key to addressing talent pipelines in and building out a much more nimble system as we see different skills and tasks that are incorporated into jobs that change because of technology or a global market influence that the more that people have that opportunity to learn some of those skills on the job while, while earning a wage and then the more that we remove some of the seems along an educational process, the better prepared we are creating our workforce to be and the quicker access to talent our businesses have. It moves the talent to market that much faster because you're able to do the training in a an on the job fashion and get those specific skills as people are there.

Kofi Darku:                   08:58               I really like that you're emphasizing earn and learn. It can also be seen as an incentive for that person who's currently in the job to explore this new job, but as you explained it, it's almost a necessity if someone is low income and are trying to make that move to the next job. If they don't have a way to continue to pay their bills while they're learning those new skills, it may not make sense for them to do so and we know we're going to need people to skill up f we're going to start to fill all these jobs that are coming down the pipeline.

Blair Milo:                    09:34               Right and so we see a lot of employers who are adopting some pretty innovative practices for being able to provide that kind of training. Some are, are adopting now more of the US Department of Labor certified apprenticeship model and going through that element that yeah, great opportunities that come with doing that apprenticeship. Some of the challenge that we see right now is that the existing space of apprenticeships, about 85 percent of them are in building and construction trades. Great Opportunities in, in that real world and highly encourage everybody that has an interest in it to, to, uh, take a look at that because it's, it's a tremendous opportunity. We want to take the lessons learned from that kind of a model and say, how do we make this more commonplace across different industry types and we're starting to see that take root and in some different areas.

Blair Milo:                    10:27               I just had a chance last week to visit a couple of places that are doing, uh, CNA training and uh, actually one of the places that they are the only place that's doing a US DOL certified CNA apprenticeship. We need to grow more of those kinds of, of non traditional apprenticeship and work based learning opportunities. And uh, Governor Holcomb announced with uh, Commissioner, Fred Payne on March first of this year, the creation of the Office of Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning. That's a state-based office, so that then we, they work in conjunction with the US DOL, Department of Labor folks with those apprenticeship models, but also within the full umbrella of work- based learning so that can include internships, externships, uh, you know, just different types of work and learn types of models so that then we're growing more of the capacity and it's reaching a wider range of industry areas, would love to get everybody to that point of doing a full DOL certified model.

Blair Milo:                    11:34               We also know that that's not always the exact model that every business is going to be able to adopt. And so trying to just meet people with where they're at and encourage more of these kinds of opportunities and for every chance that we can of, of doing that earn and learn model too, so that there's wages associated. I think that that's, that's huge. Uh, and, and it's neat to see more of that growing. But, uh, every chance that we can get, we're trying to get that message out of that this is, I think the space for uh, where educators and employers and then communities can really come together to make a powerful impact.

Kofi Darku:                   12:12               Well I'm happy you're sharing it here on the Skill Up Build Up podcast, I'll tell you, you all are in the room getting this type of information.

Blair Milo:                    12:19               Absolutely.

Kofi Darku:                   12:21               I'm kind of a nerd. So next question is about do we have any amazing data sources that can help us strategically focus on the unemployed or underemployed population?

Blair Milo:                    12:32               Well, we've been working with a collection of different entities and it's been a lot of fun to work with uh, Darshan Shah who heads up the Management Performance Hub for the state of Indiana and they're a really cool shop that they gather data from a lot of different sources to be able to see what can we correlate along the way to be able to inform certain questions that we can ask. Now, some of the challenge along that way is, are we asking the right questions? And then we're thinking through if we're asking the right questions, where can we pull the data from? Whether it's uh, things that universities have of, uh, some of the people that are a part of their programs or research that they have done within their own respective fields that, uh, what comes to top of mind is that Purdue has done a ton of work of trying to, uh, dig into the landscape of broadband access and how that affects talent across the state of Indiana and what that mobility can be.

Blair Milo:                    13:33               So gathering some of that information and then cross referencing that with other data sets that we have across different agencies that we're working with Family and Social Services Agency for some of the folks who may be a part of their programs to see how they cross reference to other programs that we could tie them into, uh, and, and get them connected up with and, and better utilize then those touchpoints that they're having along the way for better navigating what is a certainly a complicated world of, of resources that can be available. And then what the world of work can be for them.

Kofi Darku:                   14:10               I'm really happy to know that there are sources that are being tapped into that can further inform how we're approaching this. We're working really hard to ensure that no talent is wasted. Um, at Morales Group we know and believe that we can help build better futures one story at a time. But oftentimes I feel like the populations we serve, I often refer to them as a disconnected populations, um, as they navigate these opportunities, once they become aware, it's not so easy for them either due to having to deal with automated voices or going through websites and they may not be so good at navigating them. Um, how can we create a more relationship based interaction with the unemployed and underemployed or people from these communities? Is there anything we can do where it can be more of a human interaction with them as opposed to them navigating websites and dealing with automation?

Blair Milo:                    15:13               Well and that's at the forefront of a lot of our discussions about how resources are, are that we're building, are connecting to our populations and thinking through is this as easy to use as possible.

Kofi Darku:                   15:28               Bingo.

Blair Milo:                    15:29               And recognizing that there's, there's a whole lot of websites out there amongst, of different programs that different agencies may have and that can be tough to navigate. Even for somebody who is tapped into a lot of these things that I'll, I'll find that there are different things that I didn't know about that I come across and so we're working on ensuring that that's a lot easier to, to utilize from a user perspective in, in the automation space. But to your question about to having that, that human interaction and the challenge that always comes with that is capacity of how do you ensure that you have enough people that are doing that.

Blair Milo:                    16:11               And that's where I think it's equipping as many people as we can with information about the, the tools and resources. So we're, we're working with the team at um, Family and Social Services Administration to connect all of their folks up with knowledge and insight to how these different programs work so that then, you know, if they're having conversations with some of the populations they serve, that this can be an element that is also a part of conversations since they have a lot of field people that interact with folks in various capacities. And part of this, part of the reasoning for the 92 county tour is, is not just from a convening aspect of, of developing ecosystems, ecosystems, but also trying to connect up with, uh, what I see as, as building out the army of folks who can then be able to connect up with people at a local level because I think that's where all this really happens. If this is a ground game and it takes everybody, it's an all hands on deck evolution. So we got to get the information into as many people's hands as possible so that they can help also do that human interaction piece of, of walking through the steps with somebody so that then, you know, the, the automation should help feed some of that, that they work hand in hand, we get it out to as many people and we then make it as easy to use as possible.

Kofi Darku:                   17:39               Now we have several Work One offices throughout the state. Did they play a role in this? How do they focus on activating and engaging these populations?

Blair Milo:                    17:48               Absolutely. That, uh, I, I think Work One offices are in the front lines that they are interacting with people who may be job seekers now or are wanting to figure out what they may need to do from an educational attainment level, particularly if, if somebody is needing to have access to like a high school equivalency program and getting some adult basic education that many of our Work Ones are serving in that capacity, but they're also doing a great job of trying to tap into their local business networks so that they understand what some of those needs are amongst those local business communities to, uh, connect the people that they're serving up with those opportunities. Now we're in the process of evaluating what some of the metrics have been used for, uh, how we're ensuring that the, uh, the connection points are being made. It's a, it's a complicated system because of how the money flows from a federal perspective and, and the state perspective.

Blair Milo:                    18:55               Uh, but ultimately we know that the appeal, the people that are out in the community is truly want to serve the people they're serving in a, uh, the most effective capacity possible. And so, uh, we want to make sure that everybody's connected up to all the right information so that and, and then tapping in and getting support from a state side to be able to have the kinds of programs that are going to be meaningful for the populations that they're serving. Work Ones, like I said, are at the forefront of that and it's great to be able to interact with them too because they do interact in the communities that they are crucial for ensuring that we're getting out to all these different places and connecting people. And we're trying to, to think through, you know, as there are opportunities to even co-locate some places so that then as different populations may be looking to visit a different agency for something, then is there an opportunity to say, okay, the, the Work One's right here as well. And so if you're looking to leverage some of those services, they're right here. And building on some of those kinds of efficiencies.

Kofi Darku:                   20:12               Excellent. Thank you. All right. These questions from now one become so important. There's just gonna be a build here and this to me is one of those super juicy questions that I'm probably going to be asking for the next six months. We know that the 1 million number in terms of the new jobs that we need to get prepared for may be low. We may need to fill more than that. How are we getting ready to prepare or how are we preparing to fill these jobs that we know are coming in next five to 10 years?

Blair Milo:                    20:45               I think that there's, there's a couple of elements that are feeding into that, that um, it's exciting to see the growth of computer science that will be taught that there's now going to be a requirement for all schools to have it by 2021 and having that kind of a, an educational experience because we know that tech is, is such a big part of not just the tech industry, but it is a part of all industries. Especially as you see the things coming online in agriculture and manufacturing and a health care and all these different areas. It's just fascinating. So I think having those kinds of, of opportunities will be great. The, uh, the, the graduation pathways that are a part of now the graduation requirements, ultimately that will be implemented over the next few years of connecting students up with, first of all, some more intentionality in their highschool experience towards what's going to be next, whether that's going to get a certificate, a two year degree, a four year degree, whatever that may be for that student or joining the military, uh, by having that thought process integrated earlier into some of their high school experience I think is going to be really beneficial for the students and developing those talent pipelines.

Blair Milo:                    22:07               And there's a lot of flexibility in that as to which adventure they want to choose uh, and then it will certainly have to work on building up capacity particularly, uh, but I think that those, the work based learning opportunities are just really uh, crucial and really valuable for students, but we want to make sure that there's more of those available. And so that's, that's all a part of that process. Uh, so I think those are things that are, are contributing towards this. Uh, we're growing more of the JAG programs, that's Jobs for America's Graduates and that's an amazing program that has, I think like a 97, 98 percent graduation rate and with also an idea as to what that student is going to do next, whether it's going on to college, getting a job, being enrolled in dual credits or things like that. That, uh, that's, that's a great program that we're, we're growing that I think will help feed into pipelines over the next five, 10 years or so.

Blair Milo:                    23:09               And, uh, the, the department of corrections is doing a ton of work right now too, that it's really amazing how quick they'd been turned things around for an agency of their size of being able to build training programs with, uh, individuals who are going to be reentering communities to get the skills that they're going to need to be successful and employment lined up as they're in the process of making that transition so that then you don't have the risk of people falling back into previous behavior that then got them into that situation beforehand and having them, the skills that employers need. So those are things that are all feeding into I think a really great opportunity to connect people up with, uh, the jobs that are going to be building and with employers with the workforce that they'll need.

Kofi Darku:                   24:05               Cool. All right. We have to help promote one of Indiana's longstanding traditions. Um, probably well known within the region that it's in, but the rest of the state should know about the Blueberry Festival. Have you ever been to the Blueberry Festival?

Blair Milo:                    24:21               I have been to the Blueberry Festival and multiple times.

Kofi Darku:                   24:24               Tell us about this tradition please.

Blair Milo:                    24:26               I had a, I've always enjoyed the Blueberry Festival and in fact that was sort of a milestone for the year growing up of being able to go out there and getting excited because it was, it was always right around the beginning of school and so I remember always just being excited to be able to go and check that out. And generally...

Kofi Darku:                   24:45               Like a fall/summer event?

Blair Milo:                    24:47               I think it's around Labor Day, um, that they, they do the festival and so it was just right after school would generally start and so it was right at the first kind of long weekend that you would get. And it was particularly special for me that my all time favorite band would be playing there, which I'm pretty partial to. It's the Tom Milo big band. And so the...

Kofi Darku:                   25:09               Oh, the mighty Tom Milo Big Band

Blair Milo:                    25:12               Indeed, yes. But they, they were often there and so it was always great to be able to go see them perform and it's just a great environment. Crafts, food, all kinds of blueberry delights.

Kofi Darku:                   25:25               So is this the Northwest part of the state. Where does the Blueberry Fest happen?

Blair Milo:                    00:00               Plymouth!

Kofi Darku:                   25:30               That's right, Plymouth. Good Oakland.

Blair Milo:                    25:31               I feel like it's like a pop quiz. I'm ready for my next question.

Kofi Darku:                   25:35               People, are they, they need to know these things.

Blair Milo:                    25:37               Yes, absolutely!

Kofi Darku:                   25:38               Well, if you feel it's kind of quizzical, let's jump to another topic. Sports. Are you a sports fan?

Blair Milo:                    25:44               I am a sports fan.

Kofi Darku:                   25:45               Can you share with us your three favorite sports and your three favorite teams?

Blair Milo:                    25:51               My three favorite teams would be the Chicago Cubs, probably number two would be the Chicago Cubs and number three, Chicago Cubs.

Kofi Darku:                   25:59               So you've taken care of the teams. It seems like the favorite sport is probably going to be baseball then.

Blair Milo:                    26:05               Big fan of baseball. Um, I tried to integrate wiffle ball as the, uh, the community business, uh, a sport of choice that I'm not a golfer, and so whenever and particularly when I was in La Porte, then we would host like mayor's round tables or things like that, they're would usually be an activity associated. So then I would try and have everybody come on play wiffle ball.

Kofi Darku:                   26:31               I love wiffle ball.

Blair Milo:                    26:33               It's so much fun and it's just pretty ridiculous.

Kofi Darku:                   26:34               Very user friendly. Incorporates the elements of baseball without some of the dangerous elements.

Blair Milo:                    26:40               Right, right. And it's just, it's good, clean fun, and we got to a point in the city that we had built this out with our city picnic, the employee appreciation picnic each year that was starting to actually get competitive. And then there were people making tee shirts for, for things and it was just really fun to see how this took off of wiffle ball so...

Kofi Darku:                   27:01               I'm down with that.

Blair Milo:                    27:03               Excellent.

Kofi Darku:                   27:04               Now this question is more for my absent cohost, who by the way, congratulations. He just had his first child, a baby boy, mama and baby are doing wonderfully, but he wanted to make sure I asked whether or not you're a Notre Dame fan.

Blair Milo:                    27:21               I support all of the great things that Notre Dame has done. I am a proud Boilermaker. So, uh, it's, it's fascinating in this space now with career connections and talent to really get to work with a lot of our universities and see all the amazing things that they're doing. In some ways, it's almost creating a personality conflict for me. Like, Oh, I'm not supposed to like you guys, but you're doing such awesome things. And so it's great that we have such a, a, a positive competition in Indiana for um, just amazing educational experiences. So I, I am, uh, also I'm from not too far from Notre Dame, so I grew up getting to go and enjoy the skating rink and all kinds of things there. It's a beautiful campus. So I, I, I'm a Notre Dame fan to the extent that a proud Boilermaker can be.

Kofi Darku:                   28:15               Yes. We understand your alliance. Our office is also about, uh, being boiler up here.

Blair Milo:                    28:22               Excellent.

Kofi Darku:                   28:24               Well thank you so much for being on the Skill Up Build Up podcast. If you want to continue the conversation, you can go to #skillupbuildup, we'll be taking questions there and sharing information there. Uh, such great information being shared in the room today and I'm really looking forward to learning more about what happens in your role because there was some tall orders that we're trying to fill here. And uh, I feel confident we can, we have a lot of the pieces together that can help us meet this challenge and help Indiana keep it strong economy

Blair Milo:                    28:59               Very much so. We can, uh, take it all to the next level through collaboration and I'm just really appreciative of the opportunity to join you here today.

Kofi Darku:                   29:06               All right, thanks Blair. Thanks. Thanks everybody.