GARY | With a strengthening economy and the anticipation of jobs becoming available as workers retire, Northwest Indiana needs to arm people with the skills necessary for today's jobs.
That was the focal point of a discussion in Gary on Monday, as Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., began a statewide tour called Hoosier JobsRoots, visiting with business and community leaders at roundtable discussions in eight communities.
Donnelly said the economy is getting stronger, and, as more jobs become available, it is essential people are trained to fill those jobs.
"Our goal is for every person who wants a job to have a job," he said. "We want our young people to stay here. We want our families to stay here."
Whether it is through a training center or through a vocational college, such as Ivy Tech, it is important to have paths available to help people develop necessary skills, he said. "We need people to have the best possible skills," he said. "Continuing to increase your skill levels continues to increase your opportunities for success."
The challenge of developing a trained workforce is not a new one. It is important to ensure that businesses have people who are ready to go, Donnelly said.
Years ago, high school students were required to tour a local steel mill to get an idea of the work environment and possibilities, said Denise Dillard, vice president of government and external affairs with Methodist Hospitals.
She would like to see a return to that.
"Students in this region used to have a lot of exposure to the world of work," Dillard said.
Some are first-generation high school graduates who lack exposure to the job opportunities in the area.
Gary Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chuck Hughes said there are many people in the community, such as home builders and welders, who are skilled but are walking around without jobs.
"Let's provide an opportunity for them," he said.
The worst thing in the world is to have someone who is skilled and wants to work but cannot find a job, Hughes said.