INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – An Indiana agency quietly launched a worker training program aimed at high-tech fields amid uncertainty over exertion eight months after it was inflated with $ 75 million federal COVID-19 aid dollars.
Lawmakers gave the state agency little guidance on how to develop or run the Accelerate Indiana program as they scrambled to allocate Indiana’s share of the money.
Now, the once-wealthy entrepreneur who pushed the program disagrees with the way it is taking shape and insists the state should model its program on a nonprofit group it created with the same concept of providing interest-free loans to help workers obtain short-term training certifications to advance their careers.
Eight of the 47 training courses approved at the end of November are delivered by Eleven Fifty Academy, a non-profit organization created by Indiana Technical Director Scott Jones. Other approved programs are with Ivy Tech Community College and the University of Vincennes, Hoosier Occupational Training Services, C1 Truck Driver Training in Indianapolis, and Community Health Network’s Visionary Health Group, according to INvestEd, the university lending agency of the State overseeing Accelerate Indiana.
Jones, who made millions selling an early voicemail system and started several businesses, told The Associated Press that the parameters set by INvestEd are, however, “prohibitive” and could hamper the participation of students and providers. training.
His main qualm is the cap of $ 7,500 that workers can get to obtain credentials in areas such as logistics, construction and IT. Jones’ proposal to lawmakers sets loan limits at $ 10,000, which he says is necessary for training providers to meet the 75% graduation rate of students and the 65% placement rate required by students. legislators.
But the legislation establishing the fund did not specify the limits of the loan ceiling. It outlines a program where participants enroll in courses such as computer programming, manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, and aviation that take up to six months and allow graduates to find opportunities. jobs that pay at least 20% more than what they earned. . Recipients would repay the interest-free loans in installments based on their new monthly income.
Jones said that InvestEd’s decision to lower the loan limit “removes historic legislation” that holds training providers accountable for the high success rates of students entering the workforce.
“Here is another quasi-government agency that is not doing what was intended and messing up the model,” said Jones, who has been credited by lawmakers with thinking about and championing the idea behind the program. “They strayed from this legislation that I passed for two and a half years.”
Bill Wozniak, vice president of marketing at InvestEd, argued that the agency’s cap was “carefully considered” and decided by those responsible for finance, post-secondary education and workforce development. work.
“The law is silent on the amounts of revenue sharing agreements,” Wozniak told the AP, adding that most certificate programs in Indiana were under $ 7,500 and the cap was intended for stay below annual tuition fees at state universities.
He also noted that the association has worked for months to create criteria and monitoring programs to ensure that each results in better paying jobs – a strict requirement of lawmakers. After training, if a participant’s income does not increase – or remain below $ 42,500 per year – they will not have to repay the loan.
Jones’ conflict with the student loan program began earlier this year after the Career Accelerator Fund that he launched in 2019 as a nonprofit pilot program was not handed over to the state as it had foreseen it. Rather, it has been used by lawmakers as a model, and Jones remains disjointed from the state-run agenda.
Jones, who has been a leading tech businessman in Indiana since the 1990s, told Indianapolis Monthly in a profile story he largely lost a fortune of $ 400 million, blaming it on failed business ventures and an unpleasant divorce.
He says his non-profit organization is now focused on helping students attend its Eleven Fifty Academy, a separate organization that trains students for technology careers. The fund holds around $ 10 million from sources such as Lilly Endowment, PricewaterhouseCoopers and JP Morgan Chase. The towns of Gary, Fort Wayne, Evansville and others have also contributed.
“It’s a real deal… and it exists with a lot less constraints than what’s come out of Accelerate Indiana so far,” Jones said.
Eleven Fifty Academy’s Accelerate-approved training programs cover cybersecurity, secure networks, and software and website development.
Courses offered by other training providers include CDL Truck Driver Training, CNC Machine Operator Programs, Cloud System Administrator Training, Professional Medical Coder Certification, and credentials for them. certified production technicians.
By the end of November, no loans had been made, although the online application portal was open, Wozniak said.
None of the $ 75 million in federal funding for COVID-19 aid has come out of the state either, Wozniak said. Instead, INvestEd assumed the administrative costs of the work of internal staff and external legal advice.
Casey Smith is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative Corps. Report for America is a national, non-profit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.