Workforce development is a crucial issue facing our state today.
While this was a top priority for lawmakers in the recent legislative session, it has not received a lot of attention in the media.
For years, Indiana has worked hard to create a pro-growth, job-friendly business environment. In fact, Chief Executive Magazine recently ranked our state best in the Midwest and fifth in the United States in their annual analysis of the best states for business, and we are projected to have one million job openings available for Hoosiers within the next decade.
However, despite Indiana’s successes, we continue to face a skills gap in our workforce. In a 2016 employer survey by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, 45 percent of responding businesses reported they have not filled job openings because of a lack of qualified applicants and 27 percent of responding businesses said that filling their workforce is their biggest challenge.
Senate Enrolled Act 198, which was recently signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb, seeks to address these issues by reforming Indiana’s workforce development system in a number of ways.
SEA 198 helps eighth-grade students to begin thinking about their role in the workforce by creating the Indiana Career Explorer program. The program helps students identify their career interests and skillsets, learn about relevant jobs, and find out what education or training is required to obtain those jobs. The Indiana Career Explorer program will start as a pilot in 15 schools next year and then expand to all public schools across the state.
SEA 198 works to familiarize and prepare high school students for the modern-day workforce by increasing per-student funding for career and technical education courses in high-wage, high-demand jobs fields.
SEA 198 helps Hoosier adults qualify for jobs with the Workforce Ready Grant Program. Currently, 58 percent of Indiana jobs require more training than a high school degree but less than a college degree. This grant program will help adults meet the financial requirements involved in earning certificates in a targeted industry.
I am proud of our state for building and maintaining an environment that promotes economic opportunity, but it is vital that we have a skilled workforce ready to fill the jobs of tomorrow. I am hopeful SEA 198 will provide the education and training necessary to position Hoosier workers and our state economy for continued success in the years ahead.
As always, I welcome your input on this topic or others. My office can be reached by phone at 800-382-9467 or by email at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov.
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