Behning: Preparing Indiana’s workforce for the 21st Century

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, February 23, 2018 11:13 am

It seems like there’s an announcement every other day of a business expanding or relocating to Indiana. It’s no surprise more and more companies are setting up shop in our state. For example, over the last several years CNBC has ranked Indiana the best in the Midwest for the cost of doing business. Just last year, we were second in the nation for software-related job growth. As more entrepreneurs and tech firms begin to call Indiana home, it’s important they know Hoosiers are ready and able to fill new job openings. It’s clear we need to do more to educate and train more workers to meet this need.

Each year, the state invests $1 billion in 30 different workforce development programs across nine separate state agencies. This demonstrates a tremendous commitment on the part of Hoosiers to higher education and career and technical training, but it begs the question whether we are allocating our resources effectively. Right now, some of these programs overlap while others are likely outdated, so we are working to streamline our efforts to make the entire statewide system more efficient and beneficial to Hoosier jobseekers and employers.

House Republicans have prioritized reorganizing the state’s workforce development system by using return-on-investment metrics to evaluate areas in need of improvement. Under proposed legislation, the Next Level Workforce Training and Development Fund would be created to ensure there is a dedicated, single source of money to annually invest in employer-based training programs. This would fund grants for eligible employers helping current and prospective employees obtain a work-related degree, certification or credential. By empowering workers to secure high-wage jobs, employers will be able to hire the highly skilled workers they need. Additionally, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development would be required to have two employees at each WorkOne center across the state with the express purpose of connecting Hoosier employers and jobseekers with state resources and informing local school officials and students on available grants and programs. 

While we are working on legislation to streamline our workforce efforts, there are several other resources available to Hoosiers right now. Next Level Jobs is an initiative connecting Indiana employers with qualified workers and providing jobseekers with free, local job training so they can advance in their career and obtain better-paying jobs. Workforce Ready Grants are also available to cover tuition costs, while working to earn eligible, high-value certificates from Ivy Tech Community College or Vincennes University. To learn more, visit NextLevelJobs.org.

Indiana is also working to pair Hoosier veterans with employers throughout the state. With more than half of the 200,000 service men and women who leave the military each year facing a period of unemployment, we need to connect our highly skilled veterans with businesses looking to hire. To help pair these veterans with Indiana’s more than 85,000 currently unfilled jobs, the state recently launched the Next Level Veterans initiative. This new program unites public and private organizations in order to employ more military personnel leaving service and retain veterans already in the state. Having already honed their skills during their time in the military, Next Level Veterans focuses on connecting veterans with high-wage career opportunities. For more information, visit www.in.gov/veterans.      

If you have any questions about available workforce programs or the legislation we are currently considering for new laws, please contact me at 317-232-9643 or h91@iga.in.gov. You can also sign up to receive my weekly e-newsletter at www.in.gov/h91.

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State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents portions of Hendricks and Marion counties.

Behning serves as the chair of the House Committee on Education.

A high-resolution photo of Behning can be downloaded by clicking here.