ANDERSON — With a degree from Anderson University, Erika Chaney had many marketable skills. Once on the job, however, she discovered the importance of continuing education.
Her employer saw her as an asset to the company, but did not have the resources to fund her next step in gaining expertise.
“We saw that Erika is a hard worker and that she has major potential,” said Todd Rimer, co-owner of Element 212, a branding, marketing and communications company. “When you are a small business, you just don’t have the money to invest in professional development even though you want to invest in your employees.”
Luckily for Chaney, and Rimer, the United Way of Madison County financed a grant in April to fund the Incumbent Worker Program. Through this avenue, businesses can recommend employees that are at or above the 150 percent poverty level for Madison County to receive training in a variety of areas.
At this financial level, workers are often not eligible by traditional funding sources to receive training and often cannot fund their own.
“We want to help households increase their income,” said Ed Miller, business services manager at JobSource and overseer of the program. “By earning credentials, workers are able to move up the career ladder and when there is a downturn, they are less likely to get laid off.”
Chaney participated in classes at Ivy Tech on Adobe Photoshop, Flash and Wordpress. Without the grant from United Way, she would not have been able to afford the courses.
“My new goals after taking these courses would be to use the skills I gained in my daily work and to not let my skills become dull or stale,” said Chaney, the visual communication designer at Element 212. “My final goal is to never stop learning.”
Participating businesses also include Carter Express and At Home Assisted Living.
“Carter Express pays for half of the tuition for their workers and United Way pays half,” said Miller. “The transportation industry needs drivers – and qualified drivers. So far everyone who has participated in the program has passed their classes. All of them also remain employed and are doing well – one will even move into management.”
Chaney received a pay raise after completing her coursework. Rimer decided to pursue training for more of his employees.
“The process was so simple and we had already seen great changes in Erika,” he said. “After seeing the great impact on her, I went back to Ed (Miller) and said that I didn’t want to be greedy, but I had another employee that would like to participate.”
Thus far 25 workers have either completed coursework or are currently enrolled in training. Funds are available for approximately 40 to 45 participants. Not only does the program benefit individuals and businesses, but the community as a whole.
“When businesses are looking for a location, they are looking at the work force,” said Miller. “This shows that we do have people with industry-recognized certifications. The community is playing a small part of upgrading the skills of the work force of Madison County.”