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Indiana Chamber creates umbrella resource for workforce development

November 29, 2018

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce said it is responding to the state’s growing workforce development and recruitment issues by creating a tool for employers.

The chamber announced Thursday morning that it has formed the Institute for Workforce Excellence, which officials say will be a major resource for businesses struggling to "attract, develop and retain" skilled workers.

The institute is expected to serve as the point of entry for the chamber’s existing programs, such as Indiana INTERNnet and the Wellness Council of Indiana, and it will also direct employers to state programs, like WorkOne and Next Level training grants. New chamber resources are expected to be created next year that will also be added to the institute.

Jason Bearce, Indiana Chamber vice president of education and workforce development, compared the institute's operations to how Amazon's—the online retail giant does not produce the items sold on its platform, but that’s where shoppers go to find them.

Bearce said they’ve heard from employers who have struggled to find the resources they need, so the goal is to create an easier, single-source  connection for businesses to programs, the education system and government resources.

“Businesses typically don’t look to government for answers,” Bearce said. “Government certainly has a role to play and government is trying to do a lot, but when it comes to engaging with them and helping them connect to support services and resources that can help them address their talent challenges, they’re generally not going to look to government first. They do however have a history of looking at the Indiana Chamber.”

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said employers are desperate for new and better resources to address workforce demands, and some states are going to new extremes to attract workers. For example, Tulsa, Oklahoma is offering $10,000 grants to certain workers who commit to living there for a year.

Brinegar said that’s one reason why the chamber needs to make it easier for businesses to connect with available workforce development resources.

“It strikes me that this could be the dawning of a whole new era of economic development,” Brinegar said.

The institute was announced at the same time the chamber released results from its annual workforce survey, which showed a long-term growing trend of employers struggling to fill job openings.

For first time in the 11 years the chamber has conducted the survey, more than half of employers said they left jobs unfilled in the past year due to a lack of qualified applicants.

It’s the fifth consecutive increase for employers not filling open jobs—growing from 39 percent in 2014 to 51 percent this year. Only 36 percent of companies said that the supply of qualified applicants meets demand right now, while 62 percent said it does not meet the demand. Both of those percentages are up from 2017.

Eighty percent of respondents said filling their workforce is among their biggest challenges.

“The headline here is it’s all about talent,” Bearce said. “There’s the TV show ‘America’s Got Talent,’ but we clearly don’t have enough of it.”

Chamber officials said the good news from the survey is that 56 percent of employers expect to grow their workforce in the next year to two years.

The survey results included responses from nearly 700 businesses that ranged in size from fewer than five employees to more than 1,000.

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