Employer Survey Results: Companies Anticipate Growth, Lack Workforce Needed

An annual Indiana Chamber of Commerce statewide workforce survey reinforces a common theme: Indiana companies are prepared to grow, but nearly three-quarters of the 526 respondents report that filling their workforce is challenging.

Economic prospects are bright. Fifty-eight percent of respondents expect the size of their workforce to increase in the next 12 to 24 months and another 38% anticipate stable employee counts. These mirror 2014 numbers (57% and 39%, respectively) and reinforce a shift from 2013 when just 36% foresaw growth and 59% looked at no changes in employee numbers.

As far as finding those employees, 74% note the challenge – with 24% reporting that “filling our workforce is our biggest challenge.” These results are a slight increase from 2014 findings of 72% indicating a challenge and 19% labeling it their biggest issue. Forty-three percent report they have left jobs unfilled in Indiana due to under-qualified candidates (a 4% increase over 2014).

“The continued positive outlook from Indiana employers is encouraging,” contends Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “But despite various programs and local examples of strong education-business connections, it’s clear that much more work remains to provide workers with the skills they need for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs.”

The survey, in its eighth year, is provided to Indiana Chamber members and customers throughout the state. The largest respondent groups were organizations with between 50 and 249 employees (40%), 1-49 employees (36%) and manufacturing/advanced manufacturing industries (38%). The 2015 effort was sponsored by WGU Indiana.

“It’s important to hear the voice of Indiana employers – and for educators and workforce development professionals to partner with businesses to help meet their needs,” confirms Dr. Allison Barber, chancellor of WGU Indiana. “Addressing the skills gap and preparing both students and current members of the workforce for the next phase of their careers is an essential role for all involved in this profession.”

Additional key results from the 2015 survey:

  • Critical thinking skills and personal qualities (responsibility, work ethic, willingness to learn) were cited as the most challenging to find among job applicants and new hires at 56% and 55%, respectively.
  • While business-education partnerships have increased, a large gap remains. Of the respondents to a question asking about different types of engagement with local K-12 and postsecondary schools, 99 (28%) organizations indicate they are not involved currently but would like to be.
  • Despite an increasing state and national focus on experiential learning opportunities for students, more than 200 respondents said they do not have an internship program. Lack of time to hire and manage interns (36%) and the need for more information on starting an internship initiative (19%) were the top reasons given.
  • A full 80% (45% definitely and 35% probably) indicated they would value a work ethic certificate issued by high schools that would demonstrate a student’s commitment to attendance, discipline, teamwork and other “soft skills.”
  • More than three-quarters (77%) of those responding say they have no issues with job candidates expressing concerns about Indiana business locations or quality of life issues.

View the survey results at www.indianachamber.com/education.

The Indiana Chamber and its Foundation, focused on providing research and solutions to enhance Indiana’s economic future, have tools to assist employers, job-seekers and students.

IndianaSkills.com provides job supply and demand information both statewide and regionally. It utilizes current labor market data to help companies, prospective workers and students understand Indiana’s workforce landscape. Salary data, required skills and certifications, and creation of effective job descriptions are among the featured tools.

Indiana INTERNnet has been connecting students and employers for internship opportunities for nearly 15 years. The easy-to-use web site, informative Intern Today, Employee Tomorrow guide and regional partnerships will be supplemented by additional outreach programs.

“These resources are available for everyone throughout the state,” Brinegar says. “The importance of enhancing our workforce and allowing companies the opportunity to succeed at the highest levels cannot be overvalued. Outstanding Talent remains the key driver in the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan.”

The Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card update for 2015, measuring Indiana’s progress on metrics related to the 33 goals in the plan, will be released on June 18. Both the Report Card and workforce survey results, along with Outstanding Talent best practices, will be the focus of six regional forums. Five of those sessions take place between June 22 and June 30 with visits to Fort Wayne, Evansville, Indianapolis, Merrillville and Elkhart. The sixth forum will be in July in Sellersburg.

Guides Provide Best Practices in Military Hiring

side profile of man saluting the American flag

With more than one million soldiers leaving the military in the next five years in addition to those currently looking for civilian jobs, veterans will continue to be a critical source of trained employees to fill the “skills gap.”

“To help employers improve their veteran hiring, we’ve compiled brief profiles of the techniques used by successful employers,” says Steve Nowlan, Center for America. “These free guides – one for small employers and one for large employers — will save recruiters and managers time and effort by clarifying what works and the mistakes to avoid.”

Download the Small Employer Edition (20 pages) or the Large Employer Edition (41 pages):

The Center for America coordinates the non-profit American Jobs for America’s Heroes military hiring campaign in which 1,600 employers nationally are participating.

Questions? Contact: Steve Nowlan, Center for America, at (201) 513-0379 or [email protected].

Work Ethic Signal: Schools, Business Create PRIDE Indicator

Question

The skills gap, the difference between what employers need from an employee and the abilities the workers have to offer, is multi-faceted. Not only is there often a lack of abilities in hard skills (computer programming, mathematics and more), but also soft skills such as communication, working in teams and strong personal character.

Of the more than 530 Indiana companies responding to the 2014 Indiana Chamber Employer Survey, over 54% stated that a lack of work ethic is the most pressing issue in their hiring process, followed by communication and attendance.

“Employers are teaming with schools to better relate academic concepts to workforce needs,” says Amy Marsh, former Indiana Chamber director of college and career readiness initiatives. “Businesses are looking for employees that are ready to work on day one.”

According to the survey, more than 39% of businesses had vacancies related to underqualified applicants. To make matters more difficult for employers, more than half of businesses indicated plans to expand their workforce in the next year.

“This is not a sustainable model for moving Indiana forward,” Marsh states. “Ultimately, we want workers across the employment spectrum to be able to have a long, sustainable career that contributes to the strength of the Indiana labor force.”

Read my full story in BizVoice.

Vincennes University Partners to Help Bridge Skills Gap

vuBusiness is good at Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. (SIA) in Lafayette. The plant is expanding, with production of the Impreza set to begin in late 2016.

But there’s a speed bump fast approaching that could cause SIA and similar companies across the state to tap the brakes, if not come to a devastating halt.

The “middle-skills gap” is troubling some of Indiana’s biggest industries: advanced manufacturing, distribution and logistics, and the skilled trades, to name a few. Middle-skills jobs are those that call for more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree – and there is a critical shortage of workers with these credentials.

Brad Rhorer, manager of associate development at SIA, says highly-technical positions that require a certification or two-year degree are the most difficult for the company to fill.

“The industrial maintenance positions are very in-depth in knowledge and experience, and a lot of people do not have (skills in) those crafts any longer,” he emphasizes. “And we’ve got an aging workforce, so retirements are looming at the same time we’re expanding. It’s the perfect storm.”

A potential solution, some say, is to better coordinate education curriculum and work-based learning with real-world employer needs.

Read the full story in BizVoice.

Chamber Survey: Nearly 40% of Employers Left Jobs Unfilled Due to Under-Qualified Applicants

Jobs are there, but the employability of some Hoosiers isn’t matching what’s available says a new statewide survey by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Of the 532 participating employers, 39% (202) said they recently have left jobs unfilled due to unqualified applicants.

“That number is way too high and speaks to the work that policymakers, educators and employers still have to do. And also what individuals often need to do to make themselves more marketable for the type of employment they desire,” asserts Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “Collectively, we need to do better at connecting the dots regarding the open jobs and the qualifications it takes to land one of them.”

The survey, in its seventh year, asked employers about their recruiting practices, training and continuing education offerings and skills needs in their workforce. More than 40% of the survey participants had under 50 employees and just over one-third represents manufacturing or advanced manufacturing industries.

In response to what education level is required for their unfilled jobs, two-thirds (67%) indicated beyond a high school degree, with 38% saying middle skills (certificates, certification or associate’s degree) and 29% a bachelor’s degree or higher. The most often cited occupations in need of good applicants were those in the skilled trades (such as an electrician or plumber) and engineering (from technician to design).

What makes getting the right talent pool mix all the more critical, Brinegar notes, is that 96% of the respondents said they expected the size of their workforce to increase or stay the same over the next 1-2 years. The majority – at 57% – are actually looking to add more employees during that time.

On a related topic, more than 70% of respondents (72%) said that filling their workforce was challenging, with nearly 20% labeling it the single biggest challenge they faced. “So even those that are able to find people for their open positions are having to spend more time on it than they would like, and more time away from the company’s direct mission,” Brinegar offers.

When it came to identifying what skills are the most difficult to find among applicants and new hires, several “soft skills” that are traditionally not assessed in an education setting were at the top.

Work ethic was the most lacking at 55%. Communication, problem solving and attendance/punctuality each registered 42-43%. Each of these soft skills was indicated as far more challenging to find than academic skills, such as reading, writing and math. Only 10% of the respondents said they had no challenges finding the skills they needed.

Derek Redelman, the Indiana Chamber’s vice president of education and workforce policy, emphasizes that “employers have tried to help themselves and their workers by offering tuition reimbursement, but not enough are taking advantage of the opportunity.”

Case in point: Over half of employers surveyed (242 of 447) reported having tuition reimbursement programs. Yet, 64% of those respondents (156 of 242) stated the programs were seldom used by their employees and 5% said they were never used. Only 31% of employers reported that their tuition reimbursement programs were used frequently.

“Hoosier employers are frustrated by the skills of available workers,” Redelman declares. “They are willing to invest time and resources to address those challenges, but what’s too often missing is the willingness of workers and applicants to pursue the training and skills that employers value.”

Employers surveyed also expressed interest in working with the education community to a greater extent. Two-thirds of respondents (67% of 458) said they felt businesses should be more involved in reviewing high school diploma and college degree requirements. And 90% felt employers should be more involved in the design of career and technical education (CTE) programs to make sure they were on target. Over half of employers (56% of 458) reported that they are currently involved with local schools, including internships (35%), classroom presentations (18%), job shadowing (16%) and more.

Consistent with last year’s results, over two-thirds of employers (72% of 508) said they were getting little to no support from Indiana’s workforce development system: Some 36% reported knowing about WorkOne but never having had any contact; 25% accessed the system but were not finding the services helpful; and 11% had no knowledge of these services. Only 19% of employers reported success in hiring applicants using WorkOne recruiters or the Indiana Career Connect job matching system.

“Given the continuing needs of employers and the persistent number of unemployed adults, these responses point to the critical importance of the Governor’s focus on these issues and, specifically, the development of a strategic plan through the Indiana Career Council and local employer engagement through the Works Councils,” Redelman concludes.

According to Brinegar, the results of this employer survey will also guide how the Indiana Chamber concentrates its efforts to achieve several goals under the organization’s long-term economic development plan, Indiana Vision 2025.

Among those goals: increase to 60% the proportion of Indiana residents with high quality postsecondary credentials, especially in the STEM-related fields (of science, technology, math and engineering); see a notable increase in Hoosiers having bachelor’s degrees or higher; and develop, implement and fully fund a comprehensive plan for addressing the skills shortages of adult and incumbent workers who lack minimum basic skills.

View the survey results and executive summary at www.indianachamber.com/education.

U.S. Lags in Infrastructure, Skilled Workers

Just this morning, you used a lot of different gadgets just getting ready for work. You probably begrudgingly shut off the alarm on your smartphone. You took a shower. You got in your car to drive on roads to get to your office.

Smartphone, shower, car, roads… all of these things took skilled people to conceive, design and build; and when any of them start to falter, it takes another skilled person to fix it. Your appliance-assisted morning was brought to you by MANY skilled, technical people!

Alex Marshall focuses on skills related to infrastructure in his column, “For Infrastructure’s Sake, America Needs Skilled Workers.” Marshall writes that the United States lags behind other countries when it comes to sophisticated infrastructure in part because it lacks the workers to build or maintain it. Emphasis on the “maintain it.”

“You can’t just take this super sophisticated technology from over there, and bring it here and make it work,” said David Gunn, former head of Amtrak, in a decade-old interview with Marshall, but the sentiment still rings true. “Because, I mean, you have to have people who actually have a toolbox and can stand there and make it work.”

IndianaSkills.com exists to share with job seekers what jobs are in demand and what skills are necessary to do those jobs. Due to a “skills gap” in Indiana and nationwide, this information is critical to inform the emerging workforce.

“We will need skilled labor and management, and the production of both should be a national priority,” concluded Marshall.

Vincennes University Working to Tackle Skills Gap

Our team recently had the opportunity to visit Vincennes University (VU). We spoke with their administration about the work they do to prepare students for today’s high-demand jobs.

We toured their campus, including a visit to the impressive Red Skelton Performing Arts Center. We also walked through the Indiana Center for Applied Technology, which had several labs with technical equipment used by manufacturing companies for students to train. Some of the machines were “welding robots,” and each was given a human name. Vice President Dave Tucker said that, while machines exist to ease human labor (welding in particular is difficult on the body), there is still a need for skilled engineers and mathematicians to program the robots.

We also toured Toyota Motor Manufacturing (TMMI) in Princeton, IN. VU has a partnership with TMMI called the Toyota Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program (AMT). The program includes a two-year degree in Computer Integrated Manufacturing: Robotics that combines cutting-edge curriculum and paid working experience, along with learning highly sought-after business principles and best practices of a world-class manufacturer. Their giant robots were affectionately named “Godzilla!”

 

Communities Take Team Approach to Addressing Skills Gap

I’ve been writing BizVoice® magazine stories for seven-plus years, but the excitement that comes with discovering new projects, programs and people never wears off. The best part is knowing that our stories are resonating with readers.

You can imagine how happy I was when Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun contacted me in response to a story I wrote in the current issue about a regional effort focused on bridging the manufacturing skills gap (more on that in a minute!). Mayor DeBaun shared with me that similar efforts are underway in Shelbyville – and they sound pretty cool.

Project Impact 2016 emphasizes STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) starting with the development of student interest as high school freshmen and ultimately placing college students from Rose-Hulman into local facilities. In addition, Blue River Career Programs and Duke Energy are partnering with the city to build area-specific high school curriculum based on the input of industrial partners.

There’s also the Manufacturing Skills Connection web site, which contains job listings and training opportunities. Scholarships are available for an eight-week Certified Production Technician (CPT) program offered by Ivy Tech Corporate College.

I describe two similar efforts in my recent BizVoice story. Manufacturing Matters – which kicked off last fall in East Central Indiana – includes Wayne, Fayette, Rush, Union and Franklin counties as well as two nearby Ohio counties. Meanwhile, the Advancing Manufacturing initiative is part of a 12-county regional effort covering Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Howard, Miami, Montgomery, Tippecanoe, Tipton, Warren and White counties.

Employer partners like Nanshan America Advanced Aluminum Technologies offer a glimpse of the manufacturing world by hosting field trips, participating in interview fairs, presenting workshops and more. Nanshan’s 600,000-square-feet, two-press aluminum extrusion operation in Lafayette makes products for industries ranging from transportation and machinery to building and construction (see employees in action).

It always amazes me to see the people behind the machines who truly are making a difference at manufacturing companies across the state. That’s the bottom line: It’s about people. Initiatives like these remind us of that and help prepare the next generation of our manufacturing workforce.

Nothing Wrong with Gettin’ Dirty: Talking Career Options with Indiana High School Students

We had the pleasure of presenting Indiana Skills (and Indiana INTERNnet) to eight classes of Perry Meridian High School students recently. It was great to see the attention students paid to this important topic – we had students ask us about training for jobs in sonography, truck driving and public safety.

We had the added pleasure of being joined by Jack Hope, owner of Hope Plumbing in Indianapolis. Hope has become a terrific partner for us with his dedication to advocating middle-skill careers. We know the demand and the rewards are there, but we find that many students don’t understand their post-secondary options outside of four-year college.

“We’ve created this idea that if you’re getting your hands dirty that that’s somehow demeaning or not as helpful for your community,” said Hope on Inside INdiana Business. “I don’t think people appreciate hard work in the way they used to.”

See Hope’s full video interview with Inside INdiana Business.