Problem solving on a large scale is best accomplished with all stakeholders contributing to solutions. That’s why it is encouraging to see an ongoing effort by local manufacturers and Ivy Tech Community College to address a shortage of skilled workers — one that is expected to increase.
Forecasts suggest that 4,000 to 4,500 jobs will be needed to be filled in the southeast region of Indiana between 2018 and 2019. The regional shortage is a microcosm of a larger, statewide issue. About 1 million jobs will need to be filled statewide in the next 10 years, said Chris Lowery, chancellor of the Ivy Tech Columbus/Southeast Region.
Lowery mentioned that projected shortage recently during a roundtable meeting in Columbus with representatives from Faurecia, Caltherm and Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing.
An added challenge locally is that the unemployment rate of just above 3 percent essentially reflects full employment.
The good news is that the collaborative effort is producing strategies that Ivy Tech can act upon to attract more skilled workers.
Ivy Tech is using high school recruiters for the second year. The purpose is not only to attract seniors to Ivy Tech, but get them into in-demand career pathways. Pathways programs are intended to guide students through their education and into their fields, and equip them with the skills, certifications and degrees they need. That type of direction not only benefits students, but ultimately also employers.
Another target is adult workers who have some or little advanced education, but could move up company ranks and fill needed positions with a little more education. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement opportunities for employees who want to earn higher degrees, but too often the employees are unaware of it. Ivy Tech’s solution is to actively seek adult workers and explain degree opportunities available to them at Ivy Tech and how additional can aid career advancement. Lowery said one possible way to help workers get that education is offering flexibility on the times and locations of classes, even having them late in the evening.
A new strategy rethinks the job-finding process for students. Ivy Tech is hiring a person to lead career development for students, to get them thinking about their career from the moment they step onto campus rather than the final year or two. That will include assistance with resumes, cover letters, interviewing techniques and other skills that are critical in landing a job.
The regional economy depends on a steady supply of qualified workers in the workforce, especially in the advanced manufacturing industry. The efforts of local manufacturers and Ivy Tech to meet that need are welcome and encouraging, and are setting a good example in general of the benefits of collaboration.