The Interim Study Committee on Economic Development, of which I am co-chair, met this week to discuss the role education plays in economic development. Businesses across the state identified a significant problem in filling all the job openings they have available due to the lack of properly educated and trained workers. In the coming decade, there is expected to be an increased need for graduates with training beyond high school, estimating 67 percent of the future workforce needing at least an Associate’s degree or additional certification programs above a high school diploma.
Testimony was presented by Teresa Lubbers, Commissioner of the Commission for Higher Education (CHE). In her presentation, she pointed out that most of the unemployed, in fact four out of five, lack a high school diploma, and the prospects for the under-educated members of our workforce in the future are just as dismal. She also made note that 70 percent of the high school graduates entering our community college system require some kind of remediation classes in math or English when they enroll. To improve this statistic, Dan Clark with the Department of Education testified that high school students will be given the entrance exams in the 11th grade in the future in order to identify those who need remediation before they graduate from high school.
There was also an announcement by Mr. Clark who shared that a career technical pathway in advanced manufacturing will be added to the core 40 curriculum at the high school level. This area of vocational development programs in our high schools is an area I have been advocating during my legislative tenure. Another area of recommendations I have pushed for is the finalization of the dual credit rules that all of our public universities in the state will follow to apply college credits our high school students complete before graduating.
These ideas will all help make higher education more accessible and affordable to our students. Some other exciting areas of educational outreach by Purdue were presented by Purdue’s acting Provost Vic Lechtenberg. Purdue has grown its programs through the Purdue Foundation to support research projects at the certified Tech Parks across the state; including with their regional campuses across the state to offer engineering and technical degrees from Purdue. They also team up with employers across the state to allow specialized advanced engineering degree programs to be customized to the needs of those employers. For example, a master’s degree engineering program from Purdue is offered for engineers at the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center in battery research and development. That program is the perfect example of how education can make a positive impact on economic development.
Purdue also plans to assist in meeting the upcoming needs of the technical workforce by expanding their school of technology in the near future. More emphasis needs to be placed in educating students in applied sciences for the future workforce. With the current school of technology, Purdue is uniquely positioned to meet those needs over most other traditional engineering schools.