By Cheryl Reed 

A deep bench of highly skilled tech workers across all of Indiana’s economic sectors is increasingly core to the state’s economic growth and the health and well-being of its citizens. But the development of that bench is challenged by a gap between the supply of those workers and global demand for them. That’s why TechPoint includes “Talent Impact of the Year” as one of its 18 Mira Awards categories. 

Tech and tech-driven companies contributed $53 billion to Indiana’s Gross Domestic Product in 2023. For every 10,000 tech or tech-related jobs added to the workforce, Indiana gains an average of nearly $700 million in wages and about $103 million in state and local taxes. Tech industry jobs pay more than double the state’s median wage, provide stable employment and offer strong career growth opportunities.  

The 2024 Talent Impact of the Year Mira award recognizes organizations and their programs or platforms that inspire and open doors – especially in underrepresented groups – for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) talent, create economic opportunities for them and have a positive impact on talent pipeline development and the future workforce.  

The 11 organizations nominated this year are contributing mightily to the effort to develop, support and grow Indiana’s tech talent pipeline and are key players in TechPoint’s Mission41K effort to grow the Indiana tech talent workforce. 

This year’s nominees are: 

Butler University’s Butler+, Indianapolis: Demand for skilled talent in the healthcare industry has reached unprecedented heights even as many organizations grapple with upskilling their workforce. The lack of customized, effective training programs tailored to diverse learning backgrounds is a significant challenge. Butler University created a tailored program through its Division of Professional Studies that provides a customized learning journey empowering individuals to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for success in their roles. It includes the integration of data analytics tools combined with emphasizing stakeholder understanding, data storytelling and change management. And, it transforms employers into data-driven problem solvers. Beyond financial metrics, the program has also made significant strides in improving diversity, equity and inclusion, as it caters to diverse learners with varied backgrounds. This inclusivity fosters belonging and empowers a broader spectrum of individuals to thrive in skilled roles. The program’s sustainability is supported by its unique model, which leverages the collaboration between Butler University, curriculum partners and the employers themselves. This partnership aligns the program with the needs of the participating organizations. The program is funded by corporate investments. Butler University is actively exploring integrating this program into its degree programs, creating a sustainable, credit-bearing pathway for learners. 

Butler University Lacy School of Business: The Digital Age requires business students entering the workforce to be comfortable with conducting advanced data analysis and modeling and to be skilled in using data to discover business insights. They must also be able to dynamically visualize and present their work in a manner that anyone can understand. In Spring 2023, Butler University introduced a 12-hour data-thon as part of the Crossroads Classic data analytics competition, which includes Butler, Indiana and Purdue universities and the University of Notre Dame. The competition was created in partnership with Atrium AI, Pacers Sports Entertainment, Tableau and Visualize Your Technology to challenge students in a real-time, fast-paced environment that enabled them to showcase their talents to potential employers. More than 125 students took part. Tableau gave participants a year-long license for Tableau Prep and Desktop as well as three one-hour training sessions with Tableau solutions engineers. More than $5,000 was awarded to the top undergraduate and graduate students. Three student finalist were hired by the event sponsor – one of whom has recently been promoted to director of IT. 

Employ Indy, Indianapolis: Large numbers of expected tech worker retirement at a time of declining college graduation means innovative career and talent development solutions are needed if Indiana is to achieve its Mission41K goal. EmployIndy collaborated with education, business, community and philanthropic leaders to develop an Information Technology Operations and Cybersecurity pathway that integrates career-relevant work-based learning experiences into academic content. The pathway aligns with state graduation requirements, NextLevel programs, state scholarship opportunities and postsecondary transfer agreements. Its design makes the program replicable in any school district in the state, with the potential to adapt to other tech pathways as well. The accelerated and low-cost nature of the program helps meet employer demand for talent and provides access to underserved populations to enter into the technology industry. Financial accessibility through dual-credit programs and transfer and articulation agreements breaks down barriers for those who cannot afford a traditional four-year degree. Tailored work-based learning programs like Catapult and Indy’s Modern Apprenticeship Program provide immersive experiences and paid, hands-on work, preparing students for high-demand tech roles. Ivy Tech Community College’s provision of Career Link support enhances the program’s success by providing individual coaching, career exploration tools, employability skills development, and access to employers and career opportunities. This support ensures that students earn an associate’s degree and gain the necessary skills, experience, and support for a successful transition into the workforce. The initiative is a catalyst for change, providing a clear and accessible pathway to success for the tech workforce of tomorrow.  

Hitachi Astemo, Greenfield: Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, Indiana has a large number of job openings and historically low unemployment. This allows job seekers to be selective when choosing a job or career. This is fantastic for the citizens of Indiana but has been a challenge for the companies that operate in the state. Starting before the pandemic, Hitachi Astemo Greenfield began transitioning from manufacturing internal combustion automotive components to electric vehicle automotive components and realized it would need to grow its workforce significantly. Under its former operations, the company was well known, but the Hitachi Astemo brand was new and needed to increase its stature. The company turned to Eastern Hancock High School, offering internships to the students there. While working for Astemo, the students received a salary and rotated through several areas and departments within the facility. The students determined which Internship path they wanted to follow: Technical, Production, Administration or Complete, based on their post-graduation interests. The company initially hired four students and plans to increase those numbers by almost double for the remainder of the 2023~2024 school year based on additional interest from the students and the positive impressions the original interns created. The company also re-initiated a college-level internship program with help from the TechPoint Xtern program, hiring six, with plans to double that, as well. 

Indiana Office of Technology (IOT) State Earn and Learn IT Program, Indianapolis: In Fall 2019, IOT recognized an opportunity to augment the State’s Information Technology (IT) workforce through skills-based training and hiring. IOT leveraged the Department of Workforce Development’s State Earn and Learn (SEAL) certification to become the first state agency to hire talented Hoosiers into a work-based learning program. This program reskills adults from occupations like warehouse workers, truck drivers, cooks and servers, retail/grocery employees and veterans into IT business areas of high need and visibility, like cybersecurity and cloud operations. In 2023, about eight percent of IOT’s staff headcount were SEAL graduates and the IOT earned a post-graduation retention rate of more than 95 percent. Seven of the program’s graduates earned additional promotions within their first year of employment. To-date, 40 more individuals have been hired to support teams across IOT. Other state agencies have hired SEALs as well. Today, six associates are in the program working within several departments in IOT in a new rotational approach that provides them with experiences in five different business areas while earning three IT certifications. This new approach exposes them to different areas that, once they get their hands on, allows them to better understand the day-to-day of a given profession and lets them choose what works best for them. The exposure also gives SEALs greater post-graduation job opportunities.  

Junior Achievement of Central Indiana (JACI), Indianapolis: JACI is transforming the student and volunteer experience by bringing relevance, authenticity and application into everyday learning to energize K-12 students around academics and their future possibilities. It is primarily focused on reaching under-resourced schools and placed-at-risk children. JACI plays a pivotal role in shaping the future workforce and cultivating a robust talent pipeline through our impactful educational programs. With a keen focus on work readiness, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship, Junior Achievement creates memorable experiences that equip students with the skills and knowledge essential for success in the professional world. By exposing students to STEM–related occupations, the organization addresses the growing demand for STEM skills and fosters a mindset of innovation and problem-solving. Through these initiatives, JACI is actively contributing to the development of a well-prepared and dynamic workforce and empowering the next generation to thrive in a rapidly evolving global economy. JACI’s innovative approach involves the creation of immersive learning environments that allow students to apply academic concepts in real-world settings. Renowned for its creativity, JACI has developed original programs, some of which have been adopted by Junior Achievement offices across the U.S., impacting millions of students annually. 

Lionfish Cyber Security, Indianapolis: Many of Indiana’s businesses lack the cyber resilience to withstand or recover from cyber attacks, a vulnerability exacerbated by a shortage in skilled cybersecurity professionals. Lionfish’s solution, the Cyber Security Risk Management Enablement Platform, represents a pioneering step in workforce development within the cybersecurity space. This cloud-based platform is distinguished by its dual focus on Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC) management and workforce development, utilizing modules for compliance, workflow solutions, tool identification, vendor management and training. It bridges the gap between academic learning and practical, real-world cybersecurity challenge and fosters a skilled workforce ready to tackle the state’s and nation’s cybersecurity challenges. The platform’s scalability is evident in its growing partnerships with educational institutions across Indiana, creating a “force multiplier” effect that extends the initiative’s reach and efficacy. More than 47 students have already benefited from the program and an additional 50 are on the waiting list. The Lionfish platform is funded through state grants and employer participation. Through its comprehensive platform, strategic partnerships, and focus on creating a skilled, locally-based workforce, Lionfish is making a significant contribution to enhancing cyber resilience in Indiana and beyond.  

Orr Fellowship, Indianapolis: Orr Fellowship was created to combat brain drain, attract and nurture top talent emerging from Indiana’s esteemed universities and feed the growing local tech scene. To date, nearly 600 Fellows have benefited from the program, which fosters connections with the community and builds a tightly-knit network among the Fellows, the program’s partners and alumni. More than 70 percent of Orr Fellows commit to building their career in Indianapolis at least one year after their culmination of the program, and 55 percent of the alumni remain in Indiana contributing to its growth and economic impact. Orr Fellowship annually receives about 1,000 applications and selects about 80 candidates – prioritizing underrepresented groups to ensure diversity. Fellows are placed with companies that agree to invest in young talent, support diverse teams and perspectives and offer executive-level mentorship. Fellows are asked to commit to giving their best effort at work first and foremost, invest time and energy into personal and professional development, and integrate themselves into the central Indiana community. The program’s goal is that Fellows will go on to lead businesses, community organizations, and public institutions. Orr has been a launchpad for the careers of prominent business leaders in Indianapolis. 

Purdue DIAL Ventures, West Lafayette: DIAL Ventures was launched as part of former Purdue President Mitch Daniels’ Next Moves 2.0 initiative in late 2021. It enacts industry change by launching one or more new startups every six months through a venture studio model. The program runs through ideation and opportunity identification to solution and business plan development and culminates in pre-seed investments of up to $1 million. Focusing on food and agricultural industries, DIAL Ventures launches its recruitment cycle twice a year to bring six new entrepreneurs into the program who will become portfolio company founders. Since January 2022, 26 entrepreneurs have been hired into the program. Four new agrifood software startup companies have been launched. The startup leadership curriculum consists of nearly 50 hours of class time plus case study and project prep over the course of 15 weeks in a mastermind, shared-learning format. The organization has attracted participants from around the globe with broad technical backgrounds and from a wide range of industries. Leadership has diligently sought diversity across all measures and have hundreds of corporate partners, investors and philanthropists interested in actively supporting the effort.  

Skyepack, Inc., West Lafayette: The Career+™ Ecosystem platform by Skyepack combines education with real-world career experiences and guidance. It has won stamps of approval from the Indiana Department of Education, the Indiana State Board of Education, and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and has set a precedent for innovative education and workforce development programs nationwide. The platform launched in collaboration with Greater Lafayette Commerce, Ivy Tech, regional employer partners and school districts in fall 2022. It has reached 15,110 students across 21 schools in a seven-county area. In 15 months, it has linked 6,869 students with more than 50 employers, facilitating around 300 early career experiences for students. This has led to more than 4,000 career guidance interactions, significantly influencing students’ career choices and readiness. The microcredential program within Career+™ has also seen high participation, with 781 students completing it and 3,164 engaged, seamlessly integrating career learning into mandatory courses. Nearly 400 students participated in the inaugural HireMe event in April 2023, demonstrating the program’s ability to connect students directly with potential employers.  

Tenzer Technology Center at DePauw University, Greencastle: The Tenzer Technology Initiative at DePauw University officially started in 2018 with one goal: To increase digital fluency among DePauw students. The initiative provides access to the latest hardware and software technologies, curricular impact, and a variety of co-curricular programming and activities. Its flagship product is the Tenzer Technology Center. The more than 11,000 square-feet facility in the main campus library offers tech tools like virtual and augmented reality equipment, a 3D printing lab, digitization hardware and software and the most powerful workstations on campus. It is also base for the university’s relatively new esports club. The facility opened to students in January 2023 and has seen increased traffic and interest. The initiative goes beyond hard tech skills to include ways to decrease student anxiety toward applying or learning new technologies and help them gain confidence in managing technical staff, andbeing conversant in technological topics. Tenzer strives to be a national leader in digital fluency among similar sized post-secondary institutions and freely shares its strategies and mechanisms with others.  

Award winners will be announced at the 25th annual TechPoint Mira Awards gala Friday, April 26, 2024, at the Old National Centre in Indianapolis. The event is presented by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Salesforce and a host of the state’s most innovative companies, universities and organizations.  See that growing list, learn more and get your tickets here.   

Tags: Mira Award Nominee, TechPoint