Austin: Workforce Development Remains a Priority for 2018

February 8, 2018 Terri Austin

INDIANAPOLIS – As the Indiana General Assembly heads into the second half of its 2018 session, State Rep. Terri J. Austin (D-Anderson) said lawmakers should continue to focus on bipartisan ways to hone workforce development initiatives that already have garnered the attention of major employers like Amazon.

“Forward-thinking lawmakers and Gov. Eric Holcomb already understand that a highly-trained workforce is key to attracting major employers to Indiana,” Austin said. “Fortunately, there are bipartisan efforts under way in this year’s session to look at where we can improve and attempt to fill in the gaps that can make us players in large-scale projects like the Amazon HQ2 project that has generated so much national attention.”

That work, identified as a priority by the governor since taking office, is currently taking shape in two initiatives before the Legislature.

House Bill 1002, approved earlier this week, begins the process of reorganizing all workforce programs under state control, including a cost-benefit analysis of their effectiveness.

“Part of this reorganization is a recognition of the need to give local units of government—which can mean everything from cities and towns to multi-county regions—the flexibility and funding to design education and workforce training programs that make sense for their areas,” Austin said. “What I envision is the type of coalition that takes advantage of the skills and expertise of as many segments as possible—businesses, elected officials, and educational institutions, as well as other stakeholders. This will allow us to do more to help working-age adults connect to the type of training that is aligned to local industry needs, which can provide a more capable workforce that can find good-paying jobs.

“A key element of this work will be strengthening the ties between business and education to provide the next generation with the skills that are needed to face a constantly changing economy,” she continued. “We can establish new career pathways for high school juniors and seniors that prepare them for options beyond merely attending college. That means expansion of apprenticeships, work-based learning settings, technical preparation, dual credits and other programs that can lead to industry credentials and certification.”

A second measure that passed the Indiana Senate (SB 50) would offer a complementary series of workforce training reforms aimed at updating the state’s career and technical education programs.

“It is estimated that more than 2 million Hoosiers need additional training to compete with the demands of the changing economy,” Austin noted. “At the same time, studies predict that there will be more than 1 million job openings in Indiana by 2025 that will be created through both the retirement of baby boomers and the creation of new jobs.

“How we fill those demands should be the priority of the Legislature now, rather than three or four years down the road,” she added. “Gov. Holcomb recognizes that fact, and that kind of forward thinking already has received the praise of companies like Amazon. It is important to keep our attention on both of these proposals in the weeks to come before the end of the 2018 session. They certainly are among my highest priorities.”