INDIANAPOLIS | The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Indiana House, seeking to better match Hoosier worker skills with employer needs, are co-sponsoring legislation to assess and coordinate the state's various job training, career preparation and adult education programs.
House Bill 1002 creates the Indiana Career Council, a 15-member board headed by the governor that would meet monthly and develop processes to retrain currently unemployed Hoosiers and to ensure the next generation of Hoosier workers have the job skills employers want.
"While Indiana is consistently ranked best in the Midwest in job creation environment, our unemployment rate hovers stubbornly at 8 percent," said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. "We must make every effort to align our job training and educational efforts to available and prospective Hoosier jobs."
House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said he was happy to co-sponsor the legislation with Bosma and looks forward to helping Hoosiers get jobs.
"We all agree that there's a significant problem that exists – there's job openings and not enough qualified applicants," said Pelath, a human resources director at a LaPorte County health care company. "It only makes sense for us to put the machinery in place to let them get the skills they need to continue to provide for themselves and their families."
Republican Gov. Mike Pence on Friday spoke favorably about the proposal, which is set for House committee hearing Tuesday.
The plan is also supported by the Indiana Manufacturers Association and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber President Kevin Brinegar said Indiana companies have enough jobs available that they could hire every unemployed Hoosier, but most simply don't have the qualifications and training necessary to do those jobs.
"The skills gap in Indiana is very real," Brinegar said. "There's a mismatch between the skills employers need to fill these jobs and the skills that our unemployed Hoosiers have."
While free market logic suggests under those circumstances employers should raise salaries to attract workers with the skills they need, especially since Indiana wages are often below the national average, Bosma rejected that idea.
"They're going to pay what the right price is for the job," Bosma said.
Pelath said he didn't agree with Bosma but said the focus needs to be on outcomes, not causes.
"Regardless of what a corporation should be doing or not be doing, that's sort of irrelevant," Pelath said. "If somebody is sitting at home because they don't have the skills to get a job that's open, that's what needs to be resolved. That's the most important thing."
If approved, the Indiana Career Council would begin meeting immediately to review Indiana worker job skills and training programs.
Besides the governor, the council would consist of the lieutenant governor, the commissioner of workforce development, the secretary of commerce, the state superintendent of public instruction, the higher education commissioner, the secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration, the president of Ivy Tech Community College, and representatives from business, manufacturing and labor each appointed by the governor.
A Democratic and a Republican member from both the House and Senate would serve as advisory members of the council.
The legislation requires the council make recommendations to the General Assembly by November detailing the law changes needed to improve the state's job training and career preparation programs.