More than 85,000 jobs in Indiana remain unfilled due to a skills mismatch. That stubborn and sobering statistic has motivated industry, the public sector and academia to innovate new training programs to prepare Hoosiers for these job opportunities.

Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. (SIA) customized a talent development solution in 2015 to train a new swath of production workers. The Rapid Reemployment for Advanced Manufacturing Positions (RAMP) has helped the Lafayette-based original equipment manufacturer (OEM) hire talent to fill production careers for its new Impreza vehicle line.

The 4-week RAMP program focuses on basic work skills training, from crafting resumes to entry-level job training for introductory advanced manufacturing work. The program proved tremendously successful for SIA, and in partnership with Conexus Indiana, is being expanded to communities around the state.

The RAMP program has been rebranded as Catapult, graduated 2,500 students in Lafayette since 2015 and expanded to Toyota Indiana in 2017 with more than 100 graduates. At both locations, post-graduate retention rates among employees who participate in the program is above 80 percent and both SIA and Toyota have expanded its program to include all new employees.

In April, Catapult will launch its newest location in Anderson, Ind. in partnership with Purdue Polytechnic Institute, the program will include a 160-hour course over four weeks. The training opportunities will be paid positions where participants earn $1,600 over the full four weeks. A maximum of 30 applicants will be accepted each month.

The program in Anderson is supported by several industry partners, including NTN Driveshaft and Red Gold. It’s an exciting expansion of Catapult for Conexus Indiana, as it will be the first time a city itself is launching and leading this workforce training effort.

“Catapult is designed to help build a stronger workforce pipeline, increase the employment participation rate and worker wages, and ultimately reduce dependence on government assistance,” said Brad Rhorer, chief talent programs officer of Conexus Indiana and one of the architects of its predecessor RAMP. “We are thrilled to have the city of Anderson join us in our mission of bridging the skills gap, driving the Hoosier workforce forward, and creating pathways for economic mobility.”

With the help of fellow Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) initiative, Ascend Indiana, and the support of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, Conexus Indiana completed a feasibility study of Catapult in 2018, which built a case for the program’s need and impact with statewide expansion.

In the first phase, Conexus Indiana plans to expand Catapult to five community and corporate sites across the state, with a goal of 2,500 graduates over six years. Those include sites in the Department of Workforce Development Economic Growth Regions 4, 11, 5, and 9, covering parts of Northwest, Central, Southeast and Southwest Indiana. The projected benefits would be $800 million in total wage gains from program graduates, $46 million in state, local and sales tax revenue and $5 million in public assistance savings over six years.

“Catapult is a win for individuals, employers and Indiana,” says Steve Shelby, who is leading Catapult’s expansion for Conexus. “Our 2019 expansion goals will allow us to impact Hoosier communities across the state and enhance Indiana’s position at the forefront of advanced manufacturing.”

Geared toward unskilled, underemployed and unemployed Hoosiers from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels, Catapult provides two pathways for talent. One pathway allows industry partners to train temporary employees or others who are being recruited to work for a specific job. The other pathway is for the wider community of individuals who don’t have specific skills and are eager to upskill and earn internships with participating employers.

To learn more about Catapult, please reach out to Steve Shelby at sshelby@conexusindiana.com or Sarah Harrison at sharrison@conexusindiana.com.