Many Hoosiers stuck in the middle

By Teresa Lubbers

Across Indiana, employers are reporting the same problem: not enough qualified candidates to meet workforce demands. Gone are the days of high-paying jobs with only a high school diploma. To thrive in today’s dynamic economy, Hoosiers need a quality degree or workforce credential.

Over half of Indiana’s jobs are middle-skill — requiring education and training beyond high school but less than a four-year degree. There are 1.4 million working-age adults in Indiana who have a high school education or less, and 750,000 more with some college but no degree or certificate. That’s 59 percent of our state’s workforce.

On average, Hoosiers lacking these requisite skills have seen their wages decline and their employment prospects shrink. Today their situation is more dire than ever.

They have bills to pay. They have people depending on them. They don’t have the luxury of time.

At the Commission for Higher Education, we understand that a two- or four-year degree is not the best fit for everyone. Many Hoosiers need a shorter-term credential to get ahead. With that in mind, we’re partnering with Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Department of Workforce Development and the Indiana General Assembly on a new program designed specifically for working-age adults: the Workforce Ready Grant.

Currently under consideration as part of House Bill 1008, the Workforce Ready Great will be a first-of-its-kind opportunity with a clear message for Hoosiers: If you enroll in a high-demand certificate program, Indiana will make sure your costs are covered.

Last year, Indiana launched the “You Can. Go Back.” campaign to encourage more adults to skill-up through direct outreach from the Commission, support from Indiana colleges and the assistance of $1,000 Adult Student Grants. The result: more than 9,000 Hoosier adults already have re-enrolled in school.

The Workforce Ready Grant builds on this momentum — helping more Hoosiers earn short-term credentials that can change their lives and that of their loved ones.

We cannot afford to be complacent at a time when rapid economic, social and technological changes are disrupting entire industries and radically shifting what workers must know and be able to do. The skills needed for most jobs today likely won’t be enough tomorrow. For many, success will require stacking several of these credentials over the course of their careers.

The Workforce Ready Grant reflects Indiana’s commitment to creating education options and a state economy that works for everyone—now and in the future.

Teresa Lubbers is the Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education. Please send comments to editorial@therepublic.com.