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11/30/2018 11:14:00 AM
Indiana Chamber creates workforce institute to help fill jobs

Scott L. Miley, Goshen News CNHI Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS — More than half of 691 Indiana employers surveyed said they left jobs unfilled due to under-qualified applicants, the biggest challenge they face in seeking employees, according to an annual survey by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The trends led the Indiana Chamber to create the Institute for Workforce Excellence, a program in the works for months but announced Thursday.

"The purpose of the Institute for Workforce Excellence is to widen an array of services to employers to assist them in attracting, develop and retaining employees who are ready to meet the challenges of a 21st century global economy," said Kevin Brinegar, Indiana Chamber president and CEO. 

The Institute, which is accessible to all Hoosier businesses, is to serve as a one-stop shop for employers seeking training for workers, access to internships and apprenticeships, battling opioid abuse and public policy advocacy, among other programs, Brinegar said.

The Institute is not an indictment of the state's education or workforce departments, Chamber officials said.

"It's more of a reflection of how, generally speaking, siloed those systems are," said Jason Bearce, Indiana Chamber vice president of education and workforce development. "Educators are generally focused on test results and graduation rates. They're not necessarily looking long-term as to what happens to their graduates after they leave their system."

The Chamber praised Gov. Eric Holcomb's efforts in widening workforce programs to help employers and job seekers under the Next Level Jobs banner. Over the next 10 years, more than 1 million skilled workers will be needed to fill open jobs.

However, 73 percent of the survey respondents said they did not use the state's WorkOne employment system to fill job vacancies. Those respondents use internal mechanisms to fill jobs.

"We think that businesses typically don't look to government for answers," Bearce said. "Government certainly has a role to play and government's trying to do a lot, but when it comes to engaging with them and helping them connect to support services and resources to help them address their talent challenges, they're generally not going to go to government first."

In the survey, a third of the business owners said their jobs required a high school diploma or the equivalent, with 18 percent requiring an occupational license or certification and 23 percent requiring a bachelor's degree.

Concerning recruitment, 51 percent of the employers said they left positions open until a qualified applicant was found. That has consistently risen from 39 percent in 2014, said Tom Schuman, Indiana senior vice president of communications and workforce development.

A growing amount, 20 percent, said they reassigned the responsibilities of open jobs to current employees, which is up from 18 percent in 2017. Similarly, 16 percent said they hired an under-qualified candidate for an open position, which is up from 11 percent in 2017.

Among other results from the Chamber's annual survey:

• 62 percent said the supply of applicants does not meet demand. 

• 73 percent of companies use internal methods to handle workforce training.

• 33 percent said they partner with educational institutions to develop talent, although 58 percent would consider it.

• Flexible scheduling for employees is most commonly used to promote further education by 76 percent of employers; tuition reimbursement is used by 54 percent.

Last month, a report to the Governor's Workforce Council found that while more Hoosiers are moving into training and careers, there is some duplication of efforts by state agencies. Also, the report found a general lack of awareness among Hoosiers concerning the existence of state and federal programs to help train workers and connect them with employers.

The survey also comes less than two months after the Indiana Legislative Services Agency issued its first report in a survey of the state's complex system of 54 workforce-related programs including the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

So far, the survey showed five programs receiving federal funding and three receiving state funding were unable to provide outcome measures.

In a statement, Fred Payne, commissioner of the Department of Workforce Development, said he welcomed the Indiana Chamber's plan to assist businesses and education stakeholders to "combat the complicated workforce challenges faced by employers."

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