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Indiana Chamber forms Institute for Workforce Excellence to help with hiring

Indiana General Assembly leaders spoke in 2017 about priorities at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Legislative Preview Luncheon. The chamber has launched an Institute for Workforce Excellence.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is concerned that nearly 80 percent of businesses it surveyed across the state said workforce needs are their biggest challenge.

Workforce needs grew as a challenge from 72 percent to 79 percent over the last few years. And the chamber's annual employer survey found more than half the respondents — 51 percent, up from 39 percent in 2014 — left jobs unfilled because of underqualified applicants.

So the Indianapolis-based chamber, which represents more than 25,000 members statewide, is launching the Institute for Workforce Excellence to help "businesses attract, develop and retain the talent they need."

“It’s impossible to have any business conversation in 2018 without the workforce issue coming up,” Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said. “Our goal for the Institute for Workforce Excellence is to drive a highly skilled and productive workforce by bringing together tools and resources for employers to use in building their own talent pipeline.”

The survey of more than 700 businesses found that 56 percent plan to hire more people in the next year or two, but 62 percent cannot find enough qualified job seekers.

“The lost business opportunities are real and have a negative impact on these companies, their existing employees and the overall economy,” Brinegar said. "Indiana has a demographic challenge. We need to attract more workers to our state just as we strive to attract companies and the jobs they bring with them.”

The Indiana Chamber's Institute to Workforce Excellence offers education and training opportunities, a 5 percent tuition rebate through Ivy Tech Community College, an Indiana INTERNnet statewide internship matching program, and Indiana Workforce Recovery initiative on how employers can help workers with opioid or other drug problems. More partnerships and initiatives will be launched next year.

“Business engagement is a critical factor in addressing workforce needs of our state," Indiana Department of Workforce Development Fred Payne said. "The Indiana Chamber’s new Institute is an excellent vehicle to use business leadership, investment and engagement to help move our workforce forward."

The survey found only 33 percent of respondents partner with educational institutions to develop talent, and that fewer than 5 percent of employees take advantage of tuition reimbursement at most workplaces that offer it.

"Highly effective employees are the cornerstone of any successful business," Tilson Chief Executive Officer Brent Tilson said/ "Today’s lack of workers places company leaders in the position of trying to plug employment holes instead of strategically growing their organization. The impacts will potentially be felt for years to come.”

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.