Established in 2016, Ascend Indiana serves as the talent and workforce development initiative of the. It is the brainchild of Jason Kloth, former deputy mayor for education innovation in the .
Ascend Indiana was created to address the state’s talent gap, where employer demand for skilled talent outstrips supply. Early funding for this initiative came from a $5 million grant from, which supported the first three years of the organization’s operations. Additional contributions, totaling nearly $2 million, were received from the Joyce Foundation, Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD), , , Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, , and the .
The organization spent most of its first year conducting in-depth research and engaging key stakeholders to understand the workforce landscape in Central Indiana. With these findings, Ascend Indiana outlined four areas of focus for its work: engaging employers to better understand their immediate and future talent needs, identifying and connecting talent to these employers, building talent pipelines that will lead to workforce sustainability, and informing public policy.
This work involves collaborations with corporate, education, and community partners from numerous industries and sectors. In addition to local businesses and universities, some of these partners include the Indianapolis, EmployIndy, , and the Central Indiana Community Foundation.
Ascend Indiana’s main service for talent and workforce development is the Ascend Network. Released in 2018, Ascend Network is a cloud-based platform that combines algorithms with human interaction to match early-in-career talent (i.e., college students or recent graduates) to jobs and internships.
For students, the network provides free one-on-one support to help users find applicable jobs, which includes services such as resume writing and interview preparation. For employers, the network identifies a company’s hiring goals and talent requirements and then uses this information to find the best candidate(s) for hire. The service also helps identify, evaluate, and secure educational partners to build an employer’s talent pipeline when supply does not meet demand.
During Ascend Network’s pilot phase, the platform included more than 70 partner companies, 14 higher education institutions, and 600 vetted students with active profiles. While the service focused initially on early-in-career workers, by 2020 Ascend Indiana leaders were considering expanding the talent pool to include adult-age workers who are underemployed or unemployed.