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.

Education, Training Still Key to Filling U.S. Manufacturing Jobs

Although the U.S. has lost millions of factory jobs over the last few years, some employers are still having problems filling vacancies they do have with qualified candidates. A release from Rasmussen Reports explains the void, and how one community college in Ohio is working toward filling it:

The United States has shed 2 million factory jobs since 2007, yet many American companies can’t find qualified workers to fill their available openings. That’s a shocking problem, given the numbers looking for work. But it could also be a break for blue-collar Americans willing to engage their brains. For them, there is a road from unemployment to a good living, and it may go through a local community college.

While fewer Americans work in factories, U.S. factories still make lots of stuff. Many have computerized their operations to shrink the advantage of competitors in low-wage countries. They still need people to operate the computers and will pay them handsomely. But applicants with the proper skills aren’t showing up at their door.

Ben Venue Laboratories makes drugs for pharmaceutical companies in the Cleveland suburb of Bedford, Ohio. It had 100 openings for jobs paying about $31,000 a year. Some 3,600 people applied for the jobs, but the company could hire only 47 of them.

What was Ben Venue requiring in education? The ability to read and do math at a ninth-grade level.

John Gajewski, executive director of the Cuyahoga Community College, works with Ben Venue and other local manufacturers to match needed skills with interested workers. My question: How do you get those lacking a ninth-grade education up to speed for such employment?

"Let’s pretend that someone’s dropped out of high school," he responds. "They’re working at low-income jobs, and they’ve got to the point where they know they need advanced training to make a good wage."

The first thing: Get a high-school equivalency degree. Courses leading to the degree can be found most everywhere and often at no cost.  Cuyahoga Community College offers them.

With the degree in hand, the person can move into a short-term program at the college that lasts three to six months. It provides the technical training required by local industry and teaches "employability" skills — the ability to work in teams and show motivation to do the work.

To see some of the myriad workforce training and educational efforts going on in Indiana, peruse our March/April edition of BizVoice.

For those Indiana companies needing assistance with workforce development issues, check out our popular affiliate program, Ready Indiana. Contact Kris Deckard at [email protected] with questions.

Hat tip to the Chamber’s Jonathan Wales for the Rasmussen link.