On Thursday, a subcommittee of the EVV Crane I-69 innovation corridor met in Evansville to conduct a roundtable discussion about what this group is doing to benefit the community and region. I was able to join in the conversation alongside other local state representatives and companies such as Sabic Innovative Plastics, Toyota, Berry Plastics, Koch Industries and Babcock and Wilcox, all of which call southern Indiana home. Essentially, this meeting brought together many key stakeholders in order to brainstorm a solution to one of Indiana’s most pressing issues, the skills gap.
Across the country, many are concerned about the lack of jobs available to them. However, here in Indiana, we have the opposite problem. In fact, some estimate the number of available jobs to be as high as 100,000! This is particularly true in the manufacturing sector.
While this is excellent news, the significant challenge that we are facing is that too few Hoosiers have the advanced skills and technical training necessary to compete for new careers in some of Indiana’s top industries. According to data from Conexus Indiana, it would take 17 years’ worth of high school graduates just to make up for the projected number of manufacturing sector retirements in the next five to seven years. This makes it very clear that manufacturers need a highly-skilled workforce to fill available positions in this technical industry.
Working to address this issue, I was happy to support House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1003. During the 2014 legislative session, HEA 1003 was an agenda bill, meaning we made it one of our top priorities to formulate, perfect and sign into law so that Hoosiers could begin to see its positive effects.
Specifically, this new law allows the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to award grants to schools that choose to develop and implement partnerships with businesses. These partnerships would include internships and apprenticeships that provide students with real-world experience in their field of study. This legislation also allows the IEDC to award a tax credit to businesses that hire students who have gone through this cooperative program between the business and the college/university.
I was also very proud to support HEA 1064, which deals with career and technical education (CTE) programs. This legislation requires the Indiana Career Council to study CTE programs across Indiana, specifically focusing on the return on investment and utilization of these programs. This review is being conducted in the hopes of improving these programs and encouraging more students to pursue industry certifications.
Along with these new laws, one way to address the skills-gap is by obtaining a college education. However, higher education is not always right for everybody. In fact, I never went to college. After high school, I received certification through a respiratory therapy school at Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, and since then, I have built a successful business and have the distinct honor of serving as your state representative. I still encourage everyone to pursue higher education, but whether that means obtaining a bachelor’s or associate’s degree or industry certification, that is for you to decide.
If Indiana wants to remain competitive, it is important that we train unemployed Hoosiers with the proper skills necessary to find employment in today’s most competitive, high-wage fields. I remain committed to this cause both as a state representative and as a member of our community. I look forward to participating in more events like this in the future, and I sincerely commend this subcommittee for taking the lead on such an important issue facing our Hoosier state.