Chamber suggests ways to fix work force crisis-WEB ONLY

Nearly 1 million working adults in Indiana lack the skills necessary to make a living wage. Most have no college education, many didn’t finish high school, and some speak little or no English.

About a year after identifying the problem in a groundbreaking assessment of the state’s adult education and work force training needs, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce this morning unveiled a series of recommendations intended to fix it.

“There is a lot of room for improvement,” said Mark Lawrance, the chamber’s senior vice president of foundation and operations.

Among the challenges: Adults who need assistance must find their way through a complicated system that includes more than 20 programs offered by four major providers – the Department of Education, the Department of Workforce Development, the Family and Social Services Administration and Ivy Tech Community College.

So the chamber hired the Colorado-based National Center for Higher Education Management Systems to prepare the policy proposals released today. A Lilly Endowment grant covered the undisclosed expense.

The recommendations are more general than prescriptive. The 24-page report called for creating a statewide coordinating body, developing common goals and an accountability system, aligning services among providers to improve collaboration, making training more affordable and increasing awareness of the opportunities.

Improving state workers’ skill sets has long been one of the chamber’s top priorities, Lawrance said.

“The connection between work force development and economic development is very clear,” he said.

It’s also clear that Indiana has a lot of work ahead. But Lawrence said after last year’s report – the first of its kind in the country – the state has gained momentum as stakeholders began working together to address the problem.

“We hope this document serves as a blueprint for what can happen,” he said.

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