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Workforce Development Says Jobs Will Become Available
Updated May 27, 2015 9:13 AM
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(UNDATED) - According to Steven Braun, Indiana's new Commissioner of Workforce Development, in the next decade, the state could see up to a million jobs become available.

Matthew Crane of The Dubois County Free Press reports, between 300,000 to 400,000 will be created by Indiana businesses. The rest will come from the attrition of the baby boomer generation as it retires.

Braun says his department is working hard to analyze the data to work with the state's education system to funnel students into those jobs.

A problem he noted during a conference held at Vincennes University Jasper Campus Center for Technology, Innovation and Manufacturing, is the idea permeated in our culture that a four-year degree is the only viable option to a satisfying career.

"I think that everyone understands that educators typically over the last 30 to 40 years have made decisions on how they build their skillsets into courses, curriculum and degrees largely based upon anecdotal or notional information as it relates to what the economy actually needs or what the employer needs," Braun said. "There is just no data out there to guide them on that front. Employers have been off on the sidelines saying they aren't getting the workers they need or the right skillsets and haven't been that engaged in the process either."

Under Braun, the Department of Workforce Development's mission will be to create a demand-driven employment approach. The data will be important in successfully completing that switch.

They have documented the skills necessary for successful employment in occupations across the state. The data has been gathered through interviews with about 10,000 employers across the state to produce a list of 800 occupations. The list, which is updated every two years, will give educators an idea of what skillsets are needed in the state's economy.

To address this skills gap and the burgeoning job crisis that will occur in the next ten years, Braun says the state will have to create a talent "pipeline" that addresses everything the state does in education starting from elementary schools all the way to postsecondary education institutes. The plan would also create programs to work with veterans, the unemployed and other groups that will require training to get back into the workforce.

To help create that workforce, the Department of Workforce Development plans on providing schools with counseling tools to provide that data.

A student will also know what jobs will be available to them at different stages of their education. Hopefully, this will assist students in making educational decisions that are less of a financial burden and still fulfill their career goals. "If you graduate from high school, these are the jobs that will be available to you. If you plan on going to a one-year or two year degree, these are the jobs available. A four-year degree or beyond, here is the jobs," Braun said. "They will have a clear perspective when they decide what education track they want to go down of the likelihood that there's going to be a job at the end of that rainbow."

This is important to consider as current estimates put student loan debt at over a trillion dollars. Students are making big investments in degrees and they are unemployable with those skills.

"Currently, people that are 55 and older are doing pretty good in regards to employment," Braun says. "It's that 18 to 25 demographic that has the highest unemployment. They aren't being trained with the right skills to get the right jobs."

To accomplish these goals, the state will have to change a view on education that has largely been unchanged in 100 to 150 years.

"The state spends about $9 billion in K-12 education annually, it is the highest of any state as a percentage of budget and, quite frankly, we are in the bottom quartile in just about everything," he added. "We need to improve."

If this skills gap can be addressed and the million prospective jobs covered, then Braun says the state can become very strategic about economic development.

In that vein, the state has concentrated on building a healthy business climate and infrastructure improvements but has left the worker behind in regards to wages. That also impacts whether the workforce will be available.

Braun says if the state through his office can successfully implement the workforce vision, Indiana will be the first state in the country to align the education and training assets around building the right skill sets to drive the economy.

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