Regional Partnership Director of Education and Workforce Appointed to Indiana Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship Advisory Board


SOUTH BEND, Ind. (Oct. 14, 2020) -- Indiana’s Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship has created an advisory board to review the past successes and future plans of the office, as well as provide expertise and support within the developing work-based learning system.

Since 2018 when the Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship (OWBLA) was created through executive order by Governor Holcomb, OWBLA has experienced growth within its staff and program offerings. Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne made the decision then to have OWBLA become the third pillar of DWD due, in part, to the important impact that work-based learning has on Indiana’s education and workforce systems.

Payne stated, “While the office continues to coordinate efforts to expand registered apprenticeships with the U.S. Department of Labor, develop and implement comprehensive work-based learning programs for both youth and adults, it is the building of statewide public-private partnerships (P3)  that remains critical to the success of the system that is being put in place.”

OWBLA’s Executive Director Darrel Zeck said, “This continued growth makes it more important to have a group of trusted advisors as we move forward.”  There are three phases to growth with the OWBLA: Phase I – Establishment and Development (now complete); Phase II – Evolution of Programs and P3, which is set to start in 2021; and Phase III – Transition, to either a full-service entity or simply play a programming and regulatory role, which is targeted for 2024. The advisory board’s engagement and actions will play an important part in the office’s decision-making process throughout these phases.

Serving as one of 15 volunteer advisory board members, Leighton Johnson (Director of Education and Workforce, South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership) will represent Economic Growth Region 2 – joined by 11 other Economic Growth Region representatives as well as state-wide representatives from Vincennes University, Ivy Tech Community College, and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

Currently, the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership leads planning and strategy development related to all LIFT Network adult apprenticeship programs. LIFT Network apprenticeship programs are delivered in collaboration with the Northern Indiana Workforce Board (serving as the regional intermediary sponsor and administrator for LIFT Network apprenticeships) and several county-level lead partners across Elkhart, Marshall, and St. Joseph Counties. Johnson’s work on the OWBLA advisory board aligns with our focus on LIFT Network workforce programs and other emerging adult apprenticeship programs that benefit from strong collaborations with state and federal labor departments.


About South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership
The South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership is a collaboration of the economic development partners from 47 smart connected communities in Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan. The Regional Partnership focuses on a long-term systemic approach to advance the region’s economy by aligning the efforts of various stakeholders around five key areas: Educating a world-class WORKFORCE, Recruiting and retaining great TALENT, Attracting and growing new economy companies in complement to our remarkably strong manufacturing INDUSTRIES, Promoting INCLUSION and sparking opportunities for minorities and Helping ENTREPRENEURS thrive. The Regional Partnership seeks to unify and collaborate so that together, the communities across the region to work together to achieve what cannot be done individually. For more information about the Regional Partnership, visit

About the Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship
The Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship, located within the Department of Workforce Development and part of Governor Holcomb’s NextLevel Agenda, serves to develop and implement a framework of work-based learning pathways for both youth and adult populations with a concentration on certified State Earn and Learn (SEAL) and U.S. DOL Registered Apprenticeship programs.

About Indiana Department of Workforce Development
The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) serves the worker and the employer to ensure workplace success. DWD is committed to innovating and invigorating Indiana’s economic future by providing WorkOne Career Centers, Unemployment Insurance, Labor Market Information, Regional Workforce Strategies and Professional Training. Through these services, DWD is able to develop a premier workforce that enables Indiana employers to flourish and entices businesses from outside our state to relocate to Indiana.

Media Contact
Leighton Johnson
South Bend - Elkhart Regional Partnership
574.344.4686 ext. 4805