Chamber Staff Comings and Goings

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is just a few years away from celebrating 100 years (the organization was founded in 1922). Over nearly a century, there have been countless staff changes and evolutions to help move the organization forward.

Janet Boston

Today, we say “thank you and farewell” to Janet Boston, who is retiring as executive director of the Indiana INTERNnet program, which is managed by the Indiana Chamber. Boston has been in the role for seven years and caps off an outstanding career in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors. Read more about Boston’s impact with the organization here. The Indiana Chamber and Indiana INTERNnet Board sent Boston out in style – with a luncheon and office celebration, and presented her with a custom necklace in appreciation of her taking the program to new heights.

Mark Lawrance, who has most recently been advocating in the economic development and technology areas, will replace Boston as interim executive director of Indiana INTERNnet, starting June 1. Lawrance will be retiring later this year and is expected to stay in the interim role until the fall.

Additionally, as previously announced, the Indiana Chamber has partnered with the Wellness Council of Indiana and Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration to help combat the state’s opioid epidemic. The new Indiana Workforce Recovery initiative is a joint effort among the groups and is led by Jennifer Pferrer, executive director of the Wellness Council. The initiative provides employers with resources and guidance on how to help their employees who are impacted by the opioid epidemic. Allyson Blandford has come on board at the Wellness Council to support the initiative as project manager.

Also at the Wellness Council, Madie Newman has joined as program coordinator for the Indiana Healthy Communities initiative. The role has been created to support the organization in helping communities coordinate wellness efforts, ensuring healthier citizens and acting as a draw for economic development opportunities.

Abbi Espe rounds out our membership team. She was hired this spring as the manager of member services for northeastern Indiana and will focus on bringing new companies into the fold.

On the education front, the grant-funded college and career readiness position, held by Shelley Huffman, ends today. Lobbyist Caryl Auslander, who handled education and workforce matters, has left for new endeavors.

Greg Ellis, vice president of energy and environmental policy, is now responsible for federal lobbying. Members of the Indiana Chamber’s advocacy team are assuming Auslander and Lawrance’s other policy committee duties on a temporary basis until new staff is hired later this summer.

We wish everyone well and good luck in their future activities and look forward to the contributions of our new team members to continue the important work and mission of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce in “cultivating a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity for the people of Indiana and their enterprises.”

For our complete staff listing, visit the web site at: https://www.indianachamber.com/about/staff-listing/

Indiana Chamber, Ivy Tech Announce Exclusive Partnership to Aid Workforce Needs

Many Hoosiers looking for a jumpstart to begin or finish their postsecondary education now have a new opportunity through their employers. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is partnering with Ivy Tech Community College in the Achieve Your Degree program to provide discounted tuition exclusively for Indiana Chamber member companies and their full-time employees.

A 5% discount will apply to a company’s existing or future tuition assistance program, as well as to employees who finance their own education. For convenience, payment is deferred and one invoice is sent at the end of each term that reflects tuition fees after any financial aid has been deducted.

The Indiana Chamber is the state’s largest business advocacy and information organization, representing thousands of businesses of all sizes across the state.

“There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t hear from our members about workforce gaps they are experiencing. We encourage them to take advantage of this program and promote it internally. It’s a good approach to upskilling the workforce and addressing their own company’s needs,” explains Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. “And by investing in employees, companies build loyalty and that ultimately helps with retention efforts.”

While thousands of organizations across the state are active members of the Indiana Chamber, Brinegar expects this partnership to entice others, saying the investment to join the organization “will be more than offset by the thousands of dollars a business could save annually on tuition costs.”

Ivy Tech Community College, which has more than 40 locations throughout the state, is the largest public postsecondary institution in Indiana. Ivy Tech started the Achieve Your Degree program in 2016.

What can’t be stressed enough, says Ivy Tech Community College President Sue Ellspermann, is how customizable and convenient Achieve Your Degree is.

“Ivy Tech will come directly to your worksite and sit down with management and employees to run through the options and listen to what your individual needs are. We’ll connect employees with the specified courses they need to complete their certificate or degree and meet the job demands of the employer. We can also start at the very beginning and help design a tuition assistance policy if a company doesn’t have one.”

Employees can take a combination of online and on-campus coursework that fits their busy schedules.

Ivy Tech Community College provides support throughout the process, assigning a liaison to help coordinate the effort. Assistance with admissions and financial aid applications, plus student advising and tutoring, are all part of the service. Employers also receive marketing materials to help inform employees about the program.

Brinegar believes one key differentiator of Achieve Your Degree can’t be overstated.

“This is not a traditional tuition reimbursement plan and that’s huge. Large upfront costs have proven to be the big stumbling block in employees taking advantage of any continuing education programs their employers may offer.”

Cook Group, headquartered in Bloomington, experienced that firsthand and redesigned its own program so employees didn’t have to wait for reimbursement. Cook Group President Pete Yonkman reported to the Indiana Chamber last year that the company saw an 800% participation increase in its tuition support program, jumping from 50 to 450 employees.

It will take major strides like these to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow and get more people engaged in completing their education, Ellspermann offers.

“We know there are more than half a million people in this state that started college, but life got in the way of finishing it. Further, another million Hoosier workers never pursued college. We believe Achieve Your Degree and the partnership with the Indiana Chamber will entice many Hoosiers to get the certificate or degree that will provide them a brighter future and bolster the state’s workforce.”

Companies can learn more about this exclusive Achieve Your Degree partnership through the Indiana Chamber at www.indianachamber.com/achieve; Ivy Tech explains the entire program at www.ivytech.edu/achieveyourdegree.

Developing the Entrepreneurial System – Here and There

ecosystem

A professor from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is writing from his home state’s perspective, but sharing insights regarding Midwest entrepreneurial ecosystems and how they might differ from international efforts. He notes four key elements, including the always popular capital and worker skill aspects:

  1. The most important step is connecting with your customer

While understanding the basic fundamentals of cash flow and knowing how to manage a staff is important, businesses everywhere must put finding the customer first if they want to be successful. For Midwestern businesses, that might be a challenge for marketing. For startups in some developing economies, the search can be less abstract: Infrastructure challenges can make connecting with customers more difficult. For example, in Vietnam, the single biggest platform for ecommerce is Facebook — but in rural Morocco, a lack of infrastructure makes ecommerce virtually impossible. Interpersonal connections and marketplaces remain indispensable.

  1. Success begets success

In the United States, the story of every successful startup cluster begins with capital — and one of the best sources of capital is another company’s exit. We’ve also seen that for every $1 a Michigan startup receives from a Michigan VC firm, it attracts $4.61 of investment from outside of Michigan. Cash is the fertilizer, and the more of it in the environment, then the more likely the economy will grow.

This logic doesn’t always hold in developing economies, one of the hallmarks of which is no middle class and a huge income disparity. When wealth is created in these environments, there are many places that the money can be reinvested in besides another startup: to fund education, for example, or to buy more land. That being said, more wealth generated by new venture activity has the potential to lift the income threshold and lead to a more stable, flourishing economy. 

  1. Give your talent the fulfillment they need

A major challenge for small communities is talent, no matter where they are located. But talent isn’t just about having smart people — it’s about having people with the skills needed to build a business, and a community that can support them. In the Midwest, that talent gap often takes the form of local workers who are educated, well-trained, and experienced in running a business, but who might not choose to stay and work in their communities if there aren’t opportunities that appeal to them.

Robust entrepreneurial ecosystems with more activity have the potential to attract top talent away from more metropolitan areas. It can become a self-sustaining cycle once it gets going, but may take a significant event or local unicorn to get it kicked into action. In developing countries, that more often looks like workers who have limited skills, who need the determination and resources to invest in themselves — and who need an ecosystem that can provide them with that base.

  1. Take local differences into account

What works in Silicon Valley doesn’t always work in Chicago — and what works in Kosovo might not work in Vietnam. When it comes to translating what has worked in one place to another, the details become local, and critical. Some business climates trust banks and credit lines; others operate solely in cash. In some places, the local language is widely spoken; in others, that local language could be six different dialects. Just as the National Venture Capital Association has local chapters to better understand and focus on the small ecosystems being built all over the United States, context is everything for entrepreneurs looking to get off the ground no matter where they are.

While languages, customs, and currency differ from country to country, one thing doesn’t: When entrepreneurs and innovation win, it can lift the outlook of an entire economy. With the right resources and support, the Midwest has stepped up to create the jobs and standing it needs to survive in the modern economy — and developing ecosystems around the world are doing the same.

Video: BizVoice Focuses on Education, Workforce in New Edition

Our Tom Schuman gives a two-minute look into the new March/April edition of BizVoice® magazine, detailing stories on education and workforce initiatives, as well as a peak into Indiana’s political history with a new entry in our yearlong Road Trip Treasures series. Additionally, a guest columnist tackles the needed ingredients for Indiana to ignite the entrepreneurial fire.

Watch:

Key Workforce Development Legislation Still a Work-in-Progress

In the Indiana General Assembly, both House Bill 1002 and Senate Bill 50 have been significantly amended in ways that we support, but also in ways that give us some concern. We have strong support for the thoughtful and deliberate work on the study by the Legislative Service Agency of all workforce programs. It is extremely thorough and we look forward to the results of each year’s report and presentation. We also support the language regarding the Next Level Jobs Employer Training Grant program. The career and technical education (CTE) student information portal for local employers is a prime example of a creative model without having to spend extra capital. And we also support expanding the Employment Aid Readiness Network (EARN) Indiana program to include part-time students.

We hope to continue the conversation on the makeup of the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet in conference committee and have some questions as to how this will work in conjunction with the State Workforce Innovation Council (SWIC), a similar existing cabinet that is required to have its membership be 50% employers. We appreciate the language in the bill allowing the Indiana Chamber to be consulted with on a gubernatorial appointment for a business leader to the panel; however, we question why we cannot simply utilize the SWIC.

If we are tied to the idea of creating a new cabinet, we feel strongly that we should have more employer voices at the table, plus give the Indiana Chamber a seat as well. The Chamber’s place on the cabinet would provide historical knowledge on workforce issues, representing the voices of thousands of members and investors throughout the state and providing consistency when we have a new Governor who would make the majority of the appointees (be they employers or agency heads).

In close, though these bills are better and moving in the right direction, they still need work. The Chamber will continue to advocate for strong policies throughout conference committee.

New Blog Series: #BizVoiceExtra

There’s a phrase most writers know (and loathe, even though we understand the necessity of it): “kill your darlings.”

While it doesn’t literally mean to kill anyone, the point is that you will write things that are so witty and smart and wonderful that you have probably lost objectivity on whether the words or phrases are useful to the reader.

The only solution is to kill them! Delete. Rewrite. Either way, make sure you’re not just writing for yourself – you’re writing for the reader.

I wish I had all the room in the world – or, within the pages of our bimonthly business magazine, BizVoice – to keep all my lovely darlings and every interview and nugget of information that I find fascinating when working on a story.

Side note: It probably causes my editor, Tom, a little heartburn when I say, “Can I have a little more room, pleassssssse?” (It happens nearly every edition. Sorry, Tom!)

But we have so many great stories to tell about the people and companies making Indiana a special place to work and live that I want to share as much of that with our readers as possible.

In an effort to tell more of those stories that didn’t get into the magazine, I’m starting a new series here on our blog (and this social media manager is giving it a hashtag, of course): #BizVoiceExtra. While it’s not a total workaround of “killing my darlings,” this means I can expand on some topics that readers also might find interesting.

Look here for stories and photos you won’t find in BizVoice from me and hopefully my fellow writers (they don’t know I’m going to rope them into this yet, ha!).

Our March-April edition of BizVoice drops this week! Keep an eye out for some intriguing stories focusing on education and workforce, Indiana Vision 2025 progress and a trip through Indiana’s political history with another entry in our yearlong Road Trip Treasures series.

I’ll have a few of the #BizVoiceExtra stories from our new edition in a few days. Check back soon!

Freelancing Frenzy to Continue

(Originally published in smallbiztrends.com)

In the coming decade, the majority of workers in the U.S. are expected to be freelancers, according to a report from Edelman Intelligence.

The study surveyed 6,000 U.S. workers to determine changing working patterns and the impact freelancing will have on the future of working and employment practices in the U.S. This trend is being driven by the millennial generation, of which 47% currently freelance.

Technology is playing a huge role in changing workplace practices and ushering in the rise of freelancing, says Amy Sept, managing editor of the Upwork blog. According to the survey, 71% of freelancers said the work they acquired online has increased during the past year.

Despite income predictability being perceived as a barrier to freelancing, the report found 63% of freelancers believe working for a range of different clients, and therefore generating multiple income streams, is more secure than relying on one employer. Freelancers, on average, have 4.5 clients every month.

Savvy freelancers are also looking to the future, keen to learn new skills. The report found that 55% of freelancers took part in skills-related training, compared to just 30% of non-freelancers.

Chamber Talks Workforce Needs, Impact of Opioid Addiction as 2018 Legislative Session Begins

As the 2018 General Assembly gets underway, the Indiana Chamber is highlighting three big issues expected to be debated in the coming days and weeks: workforce needs, the opioid crisis and smoking rates.

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar says, “We’ve done so well recently from an employment standpoint that we’ve almost outstripped our ability to hire skilled workers since unemployment is so low in the state.

“It’s clear we need to raise up the skills of those who are here, but the Indiana Chamber is also suggesting that perhaps we need to pursue a parallel strategy of recruiting people from out of state. Talent is more mobile than ever before and once people gethere, they really appreciate our cost of living.”

But make no mistake, Brinegar stresses, the state’s priority should be on the potential talent pool at home. That means some major changes will need to occur – ones that hopefully start in the new legislative session.
“What we’ve been doing wrong is saying, ‘Here is our program, you come use it and we hope that it will solve your needs.’ Instead, there should be a conscious effort to truly listen to employers and then develop training programs that are demand-driven to what the needs of the marketplace are now.”

Many of those jobs today and down the road are in the middle skills area – skills that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year bachelor’s degree. Brinegar states this should be a focus for both Hoosier workers who need to improve their skillset and young students.

“We know from our member companies that they are reaching down to high schools and even middle schools to explore with students what job opportunities there are with their companies, what skills they need to have, what classes they need to take in high school to be eligible to take those jobs. It’s becoming a lot more focused on getting people ready with some specificity for jobs after high school.

“There will always be the need for a number of jobs requiring a four-year degree or more, but the real growth is in show me what you know, show me what you can do, show me what machinery you can operate. That’s the mindset we need to have to transform some of these government silos … along with listening to employers and creating programs that communicate to young people what those job needs are.”

Additionally, the Indiana Chamber is partnering with the Governor’s office and the state’s drug czar, Jim McClelland, to be the source for the business component of the state’s plan to combat the opioid crisis.

“We will be researching on best practices, disseminating information to employers and putting on training programs. I’ve told the Governor’s office that we want to be part of the effort and part of the solution. It’s a big problem and it’s not going to be solved overnight, but this has become an employer problem in addition to a personal and societal problem,” Brinegar offers.

“We’ve rapidly gotten to the point to where employers almost can’t fire somebody for failing a drug test because there isn’t the depth in the workforce to tap into for new workers. Employers are looking for guidance. They want more information on what they can do, how they can train supervisors to recognize signs and know where the effective treatment programs are.”

The Indiana Chamber, a founding member of the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, would like the same urgency placed on reducing the state’s smoking rates.

“There are 10 times more people dying from smoking-related illnesses every year than opioids. And it’s the most preventable source of disease,” Brinegar notes.

“We need to improve our health metrics, including obesity, which are in the bottom third of the states. I rarely accept average for anything, but if Indiana rose to be just average when it comes to smoking, that would significantly curb health issues and save those individuals and businesses a lot of money on insurance coverage and health care costs.”

Indiana’s current smoking rate is at 21% of the population; the national average is 15%.

Enhanced workforce efforts and reducing the state’s smoking rates are among the Indiana Chamber’s Top 9 legislative priorities for 2018. The full list is available at www.indianachamber.com/priorities.

Next Level Jobs: An Inside Look for Building and Construction

Building trades and construction are one of the five focuses of Gov. Holcomb’s Next Level Jobs initiative. A free one-hour webinar on December 14 – Next Level Jobs: An Inside Look for Building and Construction – will inform you how your company can benefit.

This webinar is specifically for building trades and construction. Additional webinars on other target industries will take place in early 2018. Learn how employers can be reimbursed up to $2,500 per employee (and $25,000 total) for your training programs. Leaders from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and Indiana Commission for Higher Education will discuss building and construction-specific occupations eligible for the Employer Training Grant initiative. Workforce Ready Grants for individuals will also be explained.

The Indiana Chamber is pleased to partner with the Department of Workforce Development to present this opportunity. Even if you cannot directly participate in the 10:30-11:30 a.m. (EST) webinar on December 14, do sign up and you will receive a follow-up link to the recording of the program.

Register today. You will receive a confirmation email containing webinar-specific information.

As a reminder, your Indiana Chamber is helping you tackle the workforce challenge in a variety of ways. This video explains some of our efforts:

Report: STEM Message Not Getting Through

It seems as if everyone is talking about the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) talent shortage, but the message is apparently not being heard. Randstad US conducted a study to uncover key motivations, beliefs and perspectives of STEM-related topics among kids aged 11 to 17.

The research shows that despite high interest in STEM studies and confidence in STEM skills at a younger age, interest dwindles as children grow older. Students 11 to 14 years old are 18% more likely than students aged 15 to 17 to consider math one of their favorite subjects. Fifty-six percent of young people also said knowing how STEM skills relate to the real world would make STEM classes more interesting.

“The term ‘STEM’ needs a rebrand and awareness campaign to get the next generation of talent excited about pursuing these careers,” said Alan Stukalsky, chief digital officer for Randstad North America. “Young people are self-selecting out of higher STEM education classes because they can’t see how these skills apply to different professions and employers they’re excited about. It’s a misperception and a serious economic problem, as a rapidly growing number of jobs now require STEM competencies. If we don’t find a way to guide and prepare the future workforce for these positions, we run the risk of the need for these skills escalating and the hiring gap expanding.”  

The study revealed not only a lack of students’ awareness of what types of STEM jobs exist, but also a lack of personal connection to STEM professionals and how STEM jobs are defined.

  • 52% of students say they don’t know anyone with a job in STEM, and more than 1 in 4 students (27%) say they haven’t talked to anyone about jobs in STEM.
  • Almost half (49%) of respondents say they don’t know what kind of math jobs exist and 76% report not knowing a lot about what engineers do.
  • 87% think people who study STEM work at companies like NASA; far fewer associate them with mainstream consumer brands like Instagram (40%) and Coca-Cola (26%).

Young people reported high enthusiasm for careers not explicitly defined as STEM but requiring related skills, suggesting the need for broader education as to how STEM skills can be applied in fields beyond math and science.

  • 64% of students rate creating video games for a living as very fun, while 90% rate it somewhat fun.
  • 54% of respondents think it would be very fun to earn a living working with marine life, with 89% rating it as at least somewhat fun.
  • 47% think it would be very fun to make web sites for a living, with 86% saying it would be at least somewhat fun.