HAMMOND — U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., came to Northwest Indiana to consult with educators and labor and business leaders, and even some students, about how best to overcome barriers to successful Hoosier careers.
The junior senator attended a roundtable discussion at Purdue University Northwest's Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center in Hammond, and spoke about family leave and South Shore commuter train expansion to the Editorial Board of The Times in Munster.
He is introducing his "Fair Shot Agenda," which he hopes will provide better opportunity, safety, health and government to Hoosiers, particularly those in the most economically disadvantaged cities and rural areas.
"Family leave is an area where Republicans ought to be leading," Young said. He said the federal government should help Indiana set up a family leave program "that fits their needs, their culture, their economy."
Young said he remains encouraged about the prospects of expanding the South Shore commuter rail line in Lake County.
"It's my No. 1 advocacy. We benefit from the president's infrastructure plan, which indicates that if state and local money has been set aside, then the federal money comes in. That describes what has been happening in this region with respect to the South Shore," he said.
He said the project remains on hold while federal transportation officials analyze utilization data.
"I invited Elaine Chao (U.S. Secretary of Transportation) out, and she said she was highly impressed about the projects," he said.
Young also heard advice about career technical education from representatives of Purdue, the Workforce Investment Board, the Hammond, Porter and LaPorte County Career and Technical Education Centers, Southlake Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Excel Center, Lake Area United Way, Goodwill Industries, East Porter County Schools, Ivy Tech Community College, Tri-Creek School Corp., the Northwest Indiana Building & Construction Trades Council and students from Chesterton and Washington Township high schools.
"There isn't a skill shortage so much as there is a skill mismatch between the needs of our employers and the labor market," Young said. "Students' passions aren't always those things that are valued as much by the labor market.
"We can increase the consciousness of our students, at an earlier age, about the return on an educational investment and also educate them on what it means to have a manufacturing job in the 21st century, so we can channel them into a job that pays a higher wage and help the regional economy grow."
He said he would like to address a lack of affordable housing, transportation and child care — "the barriers that exist to so many getting to a job."