As unemployment continues to rise in and around Indiana’s Elkhart County so does concern over an emergency RV worker retraining program, according to a report by WSB-TV, South Bend.
Last September, some $13.4 million in state and federal money was set aside to help retrain RV workers who permanently lost their jobs. Now, there are some concerns over the number of displaced workers participating in the program.
Qualified individuals are eligible for up to $6,000 to complete an associate’s degree program or accreditation in high wage high demand occupations.
Of the $13.4 million made available about 30%, or $4.2 million, has been committed so far and the number of people participating in the program is a small fraction of the number considered jobless.
Robin Haack is one person who is participating in the program. After 27-years of making RV’S, she’s now making a change and has entered a nursing program at the Ivy Tech campus in South Bend
“I don’t think a lot of the RV people know about the grant from ‘WorkOne,” Haack said, “I just come across it by pure luck.”
During a visit to the Elkhart unemployment office last Friday, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels seemed disappointed when he learned that the number of people receiving retraining vouchers was 947.
“It’s a big number,” said Daniels, “but what do we do to turn that one thousand to two, three, four, (and) five thousand.”
Unemployment statistics for December show that there were 15,983 unemployed people in Elkhart County, which is considered the RV capital of the world.
The figure does seem to overwhelm the 947 people who are receiving retraining vouchers, at least until you balance the mathematical evaluation with a dose of the practical.
“There are rules and regulations that come with government grants,” said Work Force Development Group Executive Director Kay Cochrane.
Not only does an applicant have to choose a new career, and commit to it, that person must show that they’d be likely to succeed.
For Haack, the process was easy. “I took a test, an assessment test at WorkOne,” Haack said, “that was pretty much it. They check into your background I’m sure, and like with the class I’m taking here, you have to have a criminal history check.”
Others are said to be still working their way through an application process that has a lot of regulations.
“We have people in the pipeline and we are consistently holding meetings with dislocated workers,” said Cochrane.
Even with 947 total participants, Ivy Tech has had some problems keeping up with its share of the former RV workers. The Advanced Manufacturing Program at the Warsaw campus has a two month waiting period – largely because of their participation.
“You have to look at capacities when you’re talking about this. What is the capacity for case management, what is the capacity for the training providers that we’re using” said Cochrane.