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Governor's Workforce Cabinet begins big task of aligning Indiana's education and job training programs

Danny Lopez, left, chairman of the Governor's Workforce Cabinet, speaks May 1, 2018 at the first meeting of the 21-member panel tasked with aligning the state's education and workforce development programs as former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo, now Indiana's secretary of career connections and talent, looks on.

INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. government will not punish Indiana for replacing its federally mandated workforce development council with a new Governor's Workforce Cabinet that does not precisely align with national workforce policy requirements.

The U.S. Department of Labor last week approved a two-year waiver authorizing Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb's workforce cabinet to take on the duties of the State Workforce Innovation Council that was dissolved in March by Senate Enrolled Act 50.

Indiana could have lost nearly $50 million in federal job training funds if the waiver was not approved.

However, the Labor Department agreed that the 21-member cabinet, composed of state and business leaders working in education and job training, is more likely to improve Indiana's workforce development system than the 46-member, business- and industry-heavy innovation council.

Holcomb said he's grateful Labor Secretary Alex Acosta recognized "that states like Indiana can best innovate when given the flexibility to do so."

"We are working to build a workforce system that gets more Hoosiers into training and better jobs," Holcomb said. "The streamlined structure of the new Governor's Workforce Cabinet lets us quickly react to changes in the economy and meet the needs of employees and employers."

The cabinet held its first and only meeting May 1. It is required to develop, by July 1, a comprehensive career navigation and coaching system that identifies workforce needs and labor supply by region, and establishes strategies to direct middle and high school students into in-demand careers.

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Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.