As many of you know, this year was a “long session” because it was a budget year. The state’s 2014-2015 budget dominated much of the conversation and received the most attention – appropriately so as the dollars and cents divided between different state agencies and government responsibilities is critical to their functionality. We have a great Ways and Means team, the committee that puts forth the budget for the entire General Assembly to confer on. The committee works incredibly hard to ensure Indiana lives within its means and focuses on the everyday Hoosier.
The budget supported one of our biggest accomplishments this session, the Indiana Career Council (ICC). With unanimous support from both chambers, this 16 member council is tasked with aligning the various participants in the state's educational, job skills and career training system in a way which best serves Hoosiers.
Indiana is experiencing growth at such a rapid rate that Hoosier companies who are ready to hire are having trouble finding enough qualified applicants to fill available jobs. With unemployment still hovering around 8 percent, this council aims to do more to address this so-called “skills gap” facing Hoosiers, so they can get the skills they need and get back to work. To highlight the shortfall, sixty-seven percent of manufacturing companies in Indiana are reporting shortages of qualified workers. Of those, over half of them anticipate that percentage to increase over the next three years.
The Legislature, and those who are on the council, are working to reverse this trend. A trained and educated workforce is critical for remaining competitive with neighboring states and attracting businesses to Indiana. Recognizing this, the council was formed to provide greater consistency between what is being provided by the education and skills training programs in Indiana and the state job market’s existing and future needs.
With nearly one-third of the state’s workforce lacking the necessary skills to succeed in our economy, one of the ICC’s most important tasks will be in addressing the shortage of qualified workers for current employment opportunities. A large part of this is simply ensuring that people know what training opportunities are available to them. To make this as straightforward as possible, the ICC will create a system that makes it easy for people seeking job training to go to a central location that details all of the training opportunities available to them.
Currently, there are numerous entities that all play a role in training Indiana’s workforce. These include the Department of Work Force Development (DWD), Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) and colleges like Ivy Tech. The ICC includes members from these entities in addition to representatives of the manufacturing and business sectors and members of the Legislature, allowing them to all come to the same table and coordinate the best practices for producing a successful workforce.
In May, Chief Executive magazine released their annual “Best & Worst States” survey. Indiana ranks 1st in the Midwest and 5th in the nation. As our pro-business environment continues to encourage businesses to locate and expand here, I anticipate that the ICC will prove to be an invaluable resource in our attempts to bridge the skills gap and tackle underemployment. It is imperative that people coming out of Indiana’s education and workforce development programs have the necessary skills to find employment in Indiana’s job market.
Job opportunities are essential to our state’s continued success and so is a highly educated workforce ready to meet those opportunities. By bringing together the principal stakeholders in today’s market, we are helping to ensure that Hoosier workers have the tools they need to succeed in today’s globally dynamic marketplace. In doing so, I believe that we are securing a strong state for many years to come.