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Worker training bill gathers steam in Statehouse

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A Senate committee unanimously passed legislation Tuesday that’s meant to bolster the state’s economy with a new council charged with aligning work-force training efforts.

House Bill 1002 – which already passed the House – now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

The measure creates a 16-member Indiana Works Council – made up of public officials and their appointees – that would study existing training efforts and develop a plan for coordinating and improving them.

The bill’s author – House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis – said that there are plenty of well-intended training efforts now ongoing. But he said often those groups don’t even know about each other.

“Right hand, left hand both doing good things but perhaps they aren’t aligned in their efforts,” he said.

The bill is backed by Republican and Democratic leaders as well as business groups. Brian Burton, a lobbyist for the Indiana Manufacturers Association, told senators that the state is more manufacturing-intensive than any other in the nation.

But he said companies are struggling to find workers and the Career Council could help solve that problem.

“The pay differential is almost $29,000 a year more in the manufacturing sector than all others,” Burton said. “So it’s important. It’s the driver of Indiana’s economy and we need skilled workers to keep driving that economy.”

Burton told lawmakers that many Hoosier workers are lacking adequate “soft skills” — such as coming to work on time and remaining drug free — as well as the technical skills they need to take on modern manufacturing positions.

“There is no doubt this is really one of the top issues that is facing this nation and also this state,” Burton said.

The Indiana House has already passed the bill and it’s expected to pass the Senate easily.

But Bosma acknowledged that lawmakers haven’t determined how to synch the legislation with a jobs-training proposal backed by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels and passed by the Senate.

That legislation tries to improve vocational education in high schools by creating local councils that would tailor the training to regional economic needs. Bosma said he’s talked with Pence about that issue but lawmakers haven’t determined whether the bills should be combined.

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