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Survey: Half of employers not familiar with state’s workforce training system; skills gap remains major concern

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February 13, 2013 (INDIANAPOLIS) – A new survey from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce helps demonstrate the need for House Bill 1002, a current bipartisan proposal to create an Indiana Career Council. Despite persistent and significant training needs, nearly half of Hoosier employers responded they have never heard of nor received assistance from the state’s current workforce training system.

A total of 335 employers took part in the sixth year of the statewide survey from Ready Indiana, a workforce development initiative of the Indiana Chamber. More than half of the respondents have fewer than 50 employees and nearly one-third is in manufacturing or advanced manufacturing industries.

The Mike Pence administration and legislative leaders are making enhanced workforce development a priority this session. Among the bills in the General Assembly is HB 1002, which would establish an Indiana Career Council to more effectively coordinate the state’s education, job skills and career training systems.

There are many survey findings that illustrate why such legislation is needed. A prime example is that nearly half of the respondents had either never been involved with (36 percent) or heard of (12 percent) the state’s WorkOne workforce system.

“We clearly have a deficiency when nearly half of employers are basically unfamiliar with the current system,” reasons Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

“On-the-job-training is one of the key services provided by WorkOne and employers are interested in it – 75 percent of survey respondents said they have either offered or considered on-the-job-training within the past two years. We need to remedy this unfortunate disconnect between WorkOne and employers so more training can take place.”

Brinegar points out that, “there are some employers throughout Indiana who received or are receiving valuable assistance from WorkOne – just not enough of them.” Some 20 percent of employers surveyed said they had successfully hired staff through WorkOne.

Looking ahead, the majority (59 percent) of respondents do not expect the size of their workforce to change in the next 12 to 24 months. Thirty-six percent anticipate adding employees during that time.

Provided a list of job skills, employers identified the following challenges:

  • 71 percent of employees lacking applied skills (problem solving, communication, work ethic, professionalism)
  • 36 percent falling short on academic skills (math, reading, writing, English, etc.)
  • 35 percent missing computer-related skills; 25 percent needing job-specific skills requiring on-the-job training; and 21 percent requiring certification for job-specific skills

“The gap between worker skills and employer needs is certainly impacting our state’s economic growth,” says Ready Indiana Executive Director Kris Deckard. “Talent is the No. 1 factor in attracting new businesses and growing existing ones.”

In the survey, employers report that they offer incentives for training/education in the form of tuition assistance (55 percent), paid time off or training during work hours (50 percent), convenient training (online or on-site, 48 percent) and recognition for accomplishments (41 percent).

“Despite the wide availability of training incentives, employees do not appear to be taking advantage of those opportunities to pursue the training that is needed by their employers,” Deckard notes. “Employees may need more evidence of a career pathway connected to the training to take that step.”

Asked what would be most beneficial to their workforce needs, 63 percent of employers cited matching funds, tax credits or other incentives – with 37 percent indicating better information regarding the labor supply, specialized skills and credentials.

Most of the questions in the survey focused on the skills of current employees. That’s an important clarification, Deckard explains. “These are people who have already met the minimum requirements to be hired – and yet, employers say they still need training. In many other cases, employers can’t even find the people with minimum skills to be hired – despite persistent unemployment numbers.”

Ready Indiana’s mission is to help make the connections between employers and training opportunities, including funding possibilities. Its IndianaSkills.com web site, which debuted in late 2012, is a searchable database of real-time statistics from job ads for every region of the state – focused on occupations that require less than a four-year degree. It also provides statistics for recent graduates completing short-term training programs from public post-secondary institutions.

Other notable study findings:

  • Three-quarters of respondents rate the impacts of the skills deficits on their organization as somewhat (57 percent) or definitely (19 percent) a problem
  • Economic conditions have caused 31 percent of companies to decrease training, compared to 10 percent increasing those efforts. The same level of training has been maintained by 54 percent of organizations
  • 51 percent say most of their employees would benefit from additional training
  • 54 percent utilize their own staff to facilitate training
  • 40 percent list work experience as the most preferred indicator of readiness for entry-level employment

View the entire survey at ReadyIndiana.org.

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