- - Monday, August 20, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

American workers finally have the upper hand on employers. With a job market that has more openings than people to fill them, wages and benefits are rising at the fastest pace in a decade.

The Trump administration is moving to increase the advantage by creating the National Council for the American Worker to address the education and training of our nation’s workforce.

President Trump’s recent executive order should be welcome news to our nation’s governors, who collectively spend almost 30 percent of their budgets on education, based on data from the Census Bureau.

It certainly is good news to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Right now, Indiana has 80,000 jobs that employers claim would be filled if they had candidates with the necessary skills and training, according to Danny Lopez, deputy chief of staff to Mr. Holcomb and chairman of the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet.

Filling these vacant jobs is more than just a challenge for employers. It also has the potential to slow expansion by employers and stop job creation.

As governor of a state with an estimated 1.5 million job openings over the next 10 years, Mr. Holcomb is getting companies, government agencies and lawmakers focused on workers receiving the training and education required to fill these jobs and those to come.

Successful workforce development must expand apprenticeship opportunities, increase STEM education, and invest in education, training and retraining workers

This is why two pieces of legislation that Mr. Holcomb championed and recently signed are earning national attention.

The first piece of legislation creates a 21-member board, tasked with overseeing and streamlining the state’s job training programs as well as assessing the progress of technical education. The second adds millions of dollars to an “employer training program.” This program helps employers suffering worker shortages to hire and provide training to employees. After completing a one-minute survey online, businesses in high-demand fields can be reimbursed up to $5,000 per employee whom they hire, train and retain for at least six months.

As of early May, more than $5 million in grants had already been provided to more than 250 companies as part of the Employer Training Grant program. The impact of these grants has been more than 2,300 employees have been hired and trained to fill vacancies.

These laws help expand the initiatives already underway in Indiana as part of Mr. Holcomb’s Next Level Jobs agenda.

One of those initiatives is the Workforce Ready Grant. These grants provide financial support to help cover tuition and fees for students pursing certificate programs in high-demand sectors such as manufacturing, construction, transportation, health sciences and Internet technology. As an alternative to a traditional four-year degree, enrollment in Workforce Ready Grants has tripled since fall 2017.

To date, more than 22,000 people have gone through the Next Level Jobs website on their path toward seeking the high-wage, high-demand job certificates the program makes possible tuition-free. More than 7,000 students are now enrolled in the eligible certificate programs at Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University for the fall and spring semesters.

The workforce programs under the Next Level Jobs initiative are creating resources, access and opportunities for the people of Indiana to obtain skills and education they would otherwise be unable to afford. Workers are improving their lives and the lives of their families, while also helping to fill increasing vacancies.

Through $1 billion in annual investments, Indiana is setting an example for other elected leaders and policymakers. For Mr. Holcomb, workforce development is central to what he likes to call “a good old slice of Indiana PIE” — People, Infrastructure and the Economy.

• David Avella is the chairman of GOPAC.


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