INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said his focus in 2018 would be on developing a stronger workforce with more opportunities for education and training.
“This year we’re going to be focused on our people, our people, our people, our people,” Holcomb said Wednesday in detailing his Next Level Jobs agenda.
“For Indiana to continue to be known as the best in the Midwest ... in the year 2020 and 2030, we’re going to have to make sure that our workforce
He added, “Quite frankly this is going to be somewhat of a new approach, and desperately needed. It’s going to take the process away from a culture that’s been about compliance and regulation and it’s going to lean more towards one of global capacity-building. It’s going to be what is happening in the trenches.”
The announcement in front of about 200 economic leaders and government officials came on the one-year anniversary of Holcomb’s election as governor.
This year, businesses have committed to creating 28,846 new jobs in Indiana, a record for a Hoosier administration, said Jim Schellinger, Secretary of Commerce for Indiana.
In another move, Holcomb said the state needed to prepare for the next generation of transportation by authorizing the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles that don’t have drivers behind the wheel.
He said he wanted to create an environment that attracts research and economic development of the vehicles.
In October, California changed its rules to allow companies to test autonomous vehicles and to let the public use them on the roads. The Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles is working on regulations.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, however, has the final word on developing compliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
Continuing his efforts to prepare high school students for college or jobs, Holcomb recommended that every K-12 school offer at least one computer science course by 2021. He will create a Governor’s Education to Career Pathway Cabinet with five workforce entities, including the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
“No more stovepipe approach as we work our way into this,” Holcomb said.
“Our goal and our vision as we go forward is to make sure that every Hoosier student receives an baseline education infused with STEM, intellectual curiosity, and critical thinking skills so we know that they are prepared for this knowledge economy that stands before us, that they are prepared for lifelong learning that is demanded by the workforce of today and tomorrow,” Holcomb said. “Students that graduate from high school have to be ready to either go to college or find meaningful training in a field of their choice, something they’re passionate about,” he said.
Holcomb said he planned to have better follow-ups from Hoosiers who log into the Next Level Jobs website seeking training.
Agenda efforts are also aimed at clarifying how software as a service firms pay sales tax, which is currently and establishing a multiservice agency to develop strategies for management of existing water sources.
The governor’s announcement was welcomed by Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar.
“We see evidence every day of Indiana’s economic and job accomplishments,” Brinegar said. “This agenda – particularly clarifying software-as-a-service (SaaS) tax treatment, increased management of our water resources, accelerat ing efforts on autonomous vehicles and expanding STEM oppor tunit ie s through increased computer science education – properly looks toward the future and will help ensure those successes continue.”
“Another positive action is recognizing the eventuality of autonomous vehicles in how we move people and goods,” Brinegar said. “Indiana is currently not a leader in this area, but accelerating efforts like the governor suggests will enable the state to better seize this economic development opportunity that is only going to grow larger.”
Holcomb’s Next Level agenda, however, does not reference health needs other than the continuing fight against drug abuse.
“It is imperative that Indiana strive for a healthy and well-trained workforce,” said Indiana House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City.
“Our workers are in demand of stronger wages, affordable healthcare, and better opportunities on the job. Leaders of both parties should embrace solutions regardless of who proposed them.” He added, “What worries me, however, is what might happen to us rather than because of us. Job training becomes less fruitful when you are sick and broke. And it must be said that our national counterparts have been far from helpful on this front,” Pelath said.
Similarly, the Indiana Democratic Party said in a statement that Holcomb seemed to be “nibbling along the edges” to meet challenges of educational attainment and wage growth. “Hoosiers are rightfully frustrated. The governor’s agenda is more of the same at a time when the rising cost of living is squeezing working Hoosiers’ paychecks more than ever,” said Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody. “How will the governor’s agenda raise Hoosiers’ incomes?”