Bridging the skills gap (2/28/2014)

Friday, February 28, 2014 7:00 pm

Start Date:  2/28/2014  Start Time:  8:00 AM
End Date:  2/28/2014  End Time:  8:00 AM
In Indiana, we often highlight the fact that we have one of the most business-friendly economic climates in the Midwest. Over the past decade, we have focused on policies incentivizing companies from across the country to relocate and grow in our great state. 

Last year, we passed a budget with the largest tax cut in state history, which included a complete elimination of the inheritance tax. We’ve continued to phase down the corporate income tax and offered incentives for businesses to hire more employees.

These efforts to make our state a leader in job creation seem to be working. Indiana’s unemployment rate decreased 1.4 percent in 2013, which was the 7th largest decrease in the nation. We added 42,600 private sector jobs and grew our labor force by more than 33,000. 

That being said, a competitive business climate is only half of the equation. As we continue to focus efforts on creating the best sandbox for business in the Midwest and beyond, there must be a renewed emphasis on attracting and retaining talent. 

By 2018, it is estimated that 55 percent of Indiana’s jobs will require some postsecondary education, but only 33 percent of our current working age Hoosiers have an associate’s degree or higher. The skills gap in Indiana continues to hinder our state’s true potential, and I am working to provide solutions to the challenges ahead. 

I have been working on and supporting House bills, specifically House Bill (HB) 1003, that strengthen the state’s workforce development efforts. HB 1003 provides grants to eligible school corporations to support cooperative arrangements with businesses for training students. This will create partnerships between schools and employers to ensure that students are learning the skills needed to fill the many vacant positions. 

We can do more to incentivize real-world learning experiences for students that bring to life what they are taught in the classroom. It’s a win-win situation for students and employers as the employers have a pipeline of qualified candidates that fit the specific needs of their business, and students gain industry-specific skills, expand their professional network and bolster their résumé for future job opportunities.

The inspiration for the school-employer partnership aspect of HB 1003 comes from a local company, Group Dekko. Named ‘Employer of the Year’ in the Impact Awards, Group Dekko created a program allowing young people to get involved in manufacturing and eventually be hired by the company. 

By working with the Noble County Economic Development Corporation and the Graduate Retention Program of Greater Fort Wayne Inc., Group Dekko developed a great college internship program in 2010 which expanded into a high school internship program in 2013 known as EXPLORE.  This program was piloted in cooperation with East Noble High School with the hope that it becomes a long-term strategy to provide students with the skill sets needed to find employment after graduation.

If every high school in Indiana offered this type of program, the skills gap could be diminished. We must continue to focus on ensuring that we have a workforce that meets the needs of a globally dynamic marketplace, and we are working to make sure Hoosiers have all the tools necessary to compete and succeed. 


Rep. Ober represents all of Noble County and portions of Allen, Elkhart, LaGrange and Whitley counties.