Work Share Program Needed in Indiana

Right now, state lawmakers and their staff are drafting bills for introduction and molding strategies for the opening of the Indiana General Assembly only three weeks away. One of the most important things they can do is to enact a work share program for the state.

Work Share, or short-term compensation as it is sometimes called, is a voluntary and cost equivalent alternative to traditional unemployment benefits.

In lieu of laying off a number of employees during an economic downturn, an employer elects to retain those employees and reduce the hours of employees of a particular group or department. Those employees are then permitted to draw a partial unemployment compensation benefit based upon the hours reduced.

Employers are able to maintain a skilled and stable workforce while employees are able to keep their jobs and benefits instead of facing unemployment and economic ruin. The state wins by reducing the number of job losses. Taxpayers win in keeping jobs in place with no net increase in unemployment insurance costs.

Work share is an innovative, win-win program now in place in 26 states, but not yet in Indiana. State legislators need to hear from employers and citizens alike right now to urge them to seriously consider and enact a work share program in the next few months.

Please take a moment to send a message to your own state legislators urging them to move forward and establish a work share program in 2015. Simply visit the Indiana Chamber’s online grassroots center to send an email message to your legislators.

 

Free Trade Zones By the Numbers

Site Selection breaks down America’s free trade zones into two types of activity: merchandise received and exports. A few findings:

  • Indiana is eighth in the exports category and 14th in merchandise received
  • Texas and Louisiana are 1-2 in both categories. Three through five in exports are South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida, respectively. For merchandise received, it’s Tennessee, California and Kentucky.
  • For exports by individual zone, here’s the top five: Brownsville, Texas; El Paso, Texas; Broward County, Florida; Knoxville Tennessee; and Atlanta.
  • In merchandise received, the top five are: Memphis; Gramercy, Louisiana; Baltimore, Harris County, Texas; and Dallas/Fort Worth. Indianapolis trade zone 72 is 11th on the list.

Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, Girls Inc. focus on STEM

TGirls Inc. recently collaborated with the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana and the IU School of Informatics STARS (Science, Technology and Research Scholars) to learn about virtual reality, video game creation and production, and using Photoshop.

Participants started off in a virtual reality lab. In this room, the girls had an opportunity to build their own virtual world and then navigate someone through it. Next, they moved to the advanced visualization lab. This room had large monitors that broke down the visual aspects of the virtual world. The girls learned about why these screens are needed and how virtual reality worlds are brought together. The last room they visited contained a green screen.

All of the girls posed in front of the green screen and then used Photoshop to place themselves in different scenes from around the world. Through this process, the girls saw how easy it is to manipulate a picture.

“They got to use Photoshop for good and not for bad,” said Adrianne Slash, program support coordinator, Girls Inc.

The girls really enjoyed the last room that they were in. It displayed artwork from video games that IUPUI students had made. The room showed them that they are capable of making games of their own someday.

Wellness Council Program a Real STAR

Five-Star-150x150Do you need any additional evidence that workplace wellness and its importance are here to stay? Digest this fact: In 2014, the number of companies completing a level of the Wellness Council of Indiana’s AchieveWELL program exceeded the total of the previous five years combined.

AchieveWELL was recognized as a winner (for innovative membership program) recently in the Indiana Society of Association Executives’ STAR awards program. The Wellness Council has been a part of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce since 2011.

The program provides a blueprint and a strategy for implementing a successful wellness initiative in the workplace. It was developed to assist employers in creating a corporate culture that encourages and supports employee health through worksite wellness.

AcheiveWELL’s process is proven to reduce the costly and time-consuming mistakes many internal wellness committees make when attempting to deliver wellness at work. It promotes productivity, presenteeism and engagement at work.

There are three different levels in the AchieveWELL program (three star, four star level and five star l). Each level has goals and programs for organizations to promote wellness. Companies are provided with tools, templates and personal coaching to help them comply with the established criteria for delivering a comprehensive and consistent workplace wellness initiative. Once one level is completed, a company may advance to the next level.

Check it out online and connect with the Wellness Council of Indiana to learn how your organization can benefit.

Raising the Woof: Speak Your Dog’s Language, Sort Of

87739557It appears there really is a business idea waiting to happen for just about everything.

When I first got a Shih Tzu puppy, the thought of leaving him alone while I was at work bummed me out – and probably him, too. I turned the radio on in the mornings so he wouldn’t be lonely and even left a message on our answering machine once or twice that first week (something along the lines of “mommy will be home soon!”) Ridiculous or endearing? You decide.

If only there had been a way for him to give me a verbal “paws up” that he was OK.

Now there is.

WÜF, touted as “the world’s smartest dog collar,” offers two-way audio with man’s best friend. The collar sounds pretty cool – it’s waterproof, shockproof and bite-proof. Other features include activity tracking, GPS, feeding recommendations, games and more.

I heard about this device in an Entrepreneur.com story. Here’s an excerpt:

The mutual communication magic happens using a companion app and a microphone-speaker combo embedded in the rugged collar. You’ll receive alerts on a companion app from WÜF whenever your dog is, uh-oh, “barking a lot, crying, whining, growling or whimpering unexpectedly.” And, because it would be torture to listen to all that drooly doggy talk from far away without being able to respond, the app also lets you squawk back.

… the collar monitors your dog’s overall health and activity levels, lets you remotely play with and train your dog using customizable programs and even helps you keep your dog within an invisible “geofence” perimeter around your yard.

Now I don’t have to wonder what my beloved dog does all day – I’ll simply ask him.

Preschool Critical for Early Childhood Development — Take Action

POne of the most important steps Indiana can take to improve education and eliminate the achievement gap for low-income and disadvantaged children is to expand publicly-funded preschool opportunities.

Every year, thousands of disadvantaged children arrive in kindergarten classrooms woefully unprepared to learn. Schools struggle to help these kids catch up, but so many fall behind and a destructive cycle of frustration and failure takes stubborn hold of their educational lives. The educational and social costs of student failures, dropouts and being ill-prepared for a career are staggering.

Less than a quarter of Indiana children attend preschool and about one in seven don’t even attend school until the first grade – one of the lowest early education rates in the nation. Only eight states fail to provide at least partial state funding for educational preschool programs. Indiana would be the ninth state but for a very small pilot program created just months ago.

If we want students to graduate high school and be college and career ready, that means starting these students along the proper education road as soon as possible.

Please take a moment to send an email message to your state legislators to support creation of a statewide preschool program. Legislative leaders of both parties have expressed strong support, but they need to know business leaders care. This is a budget-making year in the Indiana General Assembly. Now is the time to act to make an investment in early childhood education in this state.

Eliminating educational achievement gaps – starting with preschool and especially for disadvantaged populations – is one of the goals in the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 economic development action plan.

Job ‘Casualties’ Mount Due to Device Tax

16446238In our most recent Indiana Chamber Policy Call with Congressman Todd Rokita, the subject of the medical device tax came up. No surprise. It’s been a topic in countless conversations ever since the terrible idea was first broached in 2010.

Rokita expressed confidence that repeal will make its way to the President’s desk in 2015. What happens then, of course, can’t be predicted.

A recent Site Selection article notes that concerns have only multiplied. It contains quotes and analysis from Cook Group chairman and long-time Indiana Chamber board member Steve Ferguson, who says five plants (each would have employed up to 300 people) have been “put on hold” because of the tax.

Check out the full article.

Minnesota’s New Site Helps Students Make College Pay

minnPeople in powerful positions often have access to the best information.

Minnesota high school students now have the ability to expand their power base. When they are agonizing over technical school and college choices, they can now look at marketplace data that show which academic programs have high placement rates and what recent graduates are being paid.

For the first time in its history, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is making this information available to the public on its website.

The data reveal a pattern of underemployment among recent graduates. For the Class of 2011, among those completing programs ranging from certificates to graduate degrees, by their second year out of school, only 42 percent had full-time jobs that they kept for a whole year.

But the most intriguing statistics are the wage breakouts among academic programs. Here are some of the highlights for the Class of 2011 two years after completing their education:

  • Among students who earned bachelor’s degrees in marketing, 52 percent had full-time jobs and 31 percent were working part-time. The median annual salary for full-time employees was $35,373.
  • Among bachelor’s graduates with general business degrees, the median annual wages for full-time employees were $57,227. In this major, 59 percent were employed full-time and 21 percent were working part-time.
  • Those with special education and teaching degrees at the bachelor’s level had annual median earnings of $35,312.
  • Technical education translated into good-sized paychecks for people who completed certificate programs or associate degrees. For example:
  • Annual median earnings were $44,196 for full-time workers who obtained associate degrees in electromechanical instruments and maintenance technology. In this program area, 60 percent held full-time jobs in their second year out of school.
  • Plumbing program graduates also saw high job placement. Among students who completed certificate programs for plumbing, the annual median earnings for full-time workers were $41,229. Forty-five percent were working full time and 42 percent were employed part time in the second year out of school.

The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill requiring DEED to take the wage and employment data that the state receives from employers and present it to state residents in a format that’s easy to use. Called the “graduate employment outcomes tool,” people can use drop-down menus on the DEED website to look up wage and placement data by academic program.

Check out the site.

Purdue’s 4-H Outreach Expanding to City Youth

RI may be a graduate of Indiana University, but the IU/Purdue rivalry stops at the edge of the basketball court for me. That’s likely for two reasons: (1) I have at least a modicum of perspective, and (2) I’ve written about Purdue in BizVoice enough times to be flat-out impressed by the school’s innovative educational efforts and its dedication to giving students a well-rounded experience.

Additionally, the fact that Purdue has an extension presence in all 92 of our counties is quite remarkable to me. While I’ve written about Purdue’s work to reach rural students in the past, I was somewhat surprised to see how it’s helping 4-H make an impact among Indiana’s urban populations.

Because urban areas tend to not have a strong tradition of 4-H, Purdue Extension is creating new programs in heavily urban Lake, Marion and Allen counties to attract more young people there.

They’re not your typical 4-H clubs.

“These clubs meet after school and are heavily focused on engaging young people in science and helping them understand where food comes from as well as career opportunities in agriculture,” said Renee McKee, program leader of 4-H and youth development at Purdue University.

A nationwide expansion of 4-H into urban communities was made possible through a National 4-H Council funding opportunity that originated from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  In Indiana, the program is funding three start-up 4-H clubs in each of the three counties.

The effort is a strategic initiative of Indiana 4-H, McKee said. Key to making it work is getting community leaders and volunteers involved to help keep the 4-H clubs going once the grant funding is no longer available.

“The idea of creating urban 4-H clubs is to make them part of the fabric of the community, just as 4-H has done in many rural communities across Indiana,” she said.

Lake County in 2011 was the first of three urban counties in Indiana targeted for 4-H clubs funded this way. Funds initially were used to hire three program assistants who helped with establishing the clubs, planned activities and led meetings. They also work to connect parents and others from the community to volunteer with the club so that the community eventually takes responsibility for leading the programs. Urban clubs in places such as East Chicago and Gary now join the “traditional” clubs, such as those in Crown Point and Lowell where 4-H has been active for years.

“The main difference between when we started and now is that volunteers are taking a larger leadership role, and we have more investment from the local community,” said Julie Jones, 4-H youth development Extension educator in Lake County.

Now that the clubs are established in Lake County with about 100 members, including students of elementary and middle school age, older youth such as high school students are being encouraged to join the county’s 4-H Junior Leaders program and participate in the 4-H Round Up, a three-day workshop for middle school students to explore careers at Purdue in the summer.

Allen County began participating with this effort in 2012.

This year, three new urban clubs are starting in Marion County, all of which have a technology focus called Tech Wizards, an after-school, small-group mentoring program developed at Oregon State University. Tech Wizards work on technology-driven projects such as robotics and videos.

The Marion County clubs are being organized in less traditional places in Indianapolis such as the Felege Hiywot Center, which teaches gardening and environmental preservation to urban youth. 4-H also is working with the Immigrant Welcome Center, a resource for the growing number of immigrants in Indianapolis.

“Many of our opportunities to reach young people are in after-school settings, and there so many issues that impact after-school 4-H,” said Jim Becker, 4-H youth development Extension educator in Marion County. “These issues include transportation, single-parent families, the poverty rate and competition from other youth organizations.”

McKee said the urban initiative shows that 4-H can reach a diverse population statewide.

“Because of this Indiana strategic initiative, we have the ability to serve young people in Indiana regardless of where they live,” McKee said.

Please Don’t Take This Job and Shove It

37193874Everyone talks about making a good first impression in the workplace. But it doesn’t stop there. When you’re ready to move onto a new opportunity, one of the worst things you can do is leave on poor terms.

This Business Insider article offers six tips for gracefully quitting your job and avoiding burning bridges (ruefully, I must admit that for years, I thought the expression was “burning britches.” That would be another unfortunate experience altogether.)

One piece of advice that stands out is to tell your boss in person. In my opinion, revealing the news via email is akin to breaking up with someone in a text.

Another word of caution: Stay positive. You’re moving on (to another job), right? So, move on – don’t grumble about things that frustrated you along the way.

Check out the story. Let us know if you agree or disagree with the suggestions, or share your own!