GARY | With high unemployment levels in some Northwest Indiana cities, a regional U.S. Department of Labor official called for higher levels of community collaboration to help put people to work.
Darryl Shannon, federal project officer with the department's Employment and Training Administration, said Monday there should be more partnerships between nonprofits, businesses and community groups to land funding from the federal government. In a speech to about 50 people at a Gary Chamber of Commerce meeting, Shannon said Gary and other areas are missing opportunities because funding isn't being sought for innovative programs to put people to work.
"There's a lot of good people here that need that push," said Shannon, a 62-year-old South Bend native. Shannon spoke at the Steel City Buffet & Grill on Monday.
Three major funding initiatives the division is pushing is green jobs, advanced manufacturing and youth employment, Shannon said.
However, he said the federal government has also put increased emphasis on employing veterans and have charged local workforce agencies to do the same.
Robyn Minton, vice president of operations for the Center of Workforce Innovations, said job orders placed with the agency are held for 48 hours to make sure veterans have the first crack at applying for open positions if their skill sets match what's needed. The Center of Workforce Innovations is Northwest Indiana's regional operator of workforce programs and local unemployment benefit administrator.
But Minton said one of the biggest challenges locally is that there are fewer dollars available this year compared to a year ago because of federal cutbacks. President Barack Obama's American Jobs Act has been pitched as a way to support local employment, and Minton said the agency stands "ready and hopeful" for the next round of funding.
Shannon's presentation also detailed the process required for entities to apply for funding through the Department of Labor's Chicago-based Region 5, which represents states including Indiana and Illinois.
In Northwest Indiana, East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Hobart, Merrillville and Michigan City all had unemployment rates that were higher than the national average in July. Shannon said there needs to be more opportunities for lower-skilled workers to gain training opportunities and use that as a pathway to higher paying jobs that can support a family.