Chamber Survey: Nearly 40% of Employers Left Jobs Unfilled Due to Under-Qualified Applicants

Jobs are there, but the employability of some Hoosiers isn’t matching what’s available says a new statewide survey by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Of the 532 participating employers, 39% (202) said they recently have left jobs unfilled due to unqualified applicants.

“That number is way too high and speaks to the work that policymakers, educators and employers still have to do. And also what individuals often need to do to make themselves more marketable for the type of employment they desire,” asserts Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “Collectively, we need to do better at connecting the dots regarding the open jobs and the qualifications it takes to land one of them.”

The survey, in its seventh year, asked employers about their recruiting practices, training and continuing education offerings and skills needs in their workforce. More than 40% of the survey participants had under 50 employees and just over one-third represents manufacturing or advanced manufacturing industries.

In response to what education level is required for their unfilled jobs, two-thirds (67%) indicated beyond a high school degree, with 38% saying middle skills (certificates, certification or associate’s degree) and 29% a bachelor’s degree or higher. The most often cited occupations in need of good applicants were those in the skilled trades (such as an electrician or plumber) and engineering (from technician to design).

What makes getting the right talent pool mix all the more critical, Brinegar notes, is that 96% of the respondents said they expected the size of their workforce to increase or stay the same over the next 1-2 years. The majority – at 57% – are actually looking to add more employees during that time.

On a related topic, more than 70% of respondents (72%) said that filling their workforce was challenging, with nearly 20% labeling it the single biggest challenge they faced. “So even those that are able to find people for their open positions are having to spend more time on it than they would like, and more time away from the company’s direct mission,” Brinegar offers.

When it came to identifying what skills are the most difficult to find among applicants and new hires, several “soft skills” that are traditionally not assessed in an education setting were at the top.

Work ethic was the most lacking at 55%. Communication, problem solving and attendance/punctuality each registered 42-43%. Each of these soft skills was indicated as far more challenging to find than academic skills, such as reading, writing and math. Only 10% of the respondents said they had no challenges finding the skills they needed.

Derek Redelman, the Indiana Chamber’s vice president of education and workforce policy, emphasizes that “employers have tried to help themselves and their workers by offering tuition reimbursement, but not enough are taking advantage of the opportunity.”

Case in point: Over half of employers surveyed (242 of 447) reported having tuition reimbursement programs. Yet, 64% of those respondents (156 of 242) stated the programs were seldom used by their employees and 5% said they were never used. Only 31% of employers reported that their tuition reimbursement programs were used frequently.

“Hoosier employers are frustrated by the skills of available workers,” Redelman declares. “They are willing to invest time and resources to address those challenges, but what’s too often missing is the willingness of workers and applicants to pursue the training and skills that employers value.”

Employers surveyed also expressed interest in working with the education community to a greater extent. Two-thirds of respondents (67% of 458) said they felt businesses should be more involved in reviewing high school diploma and college degree requirements. And 90% felt employers should be more involved in the design of career and technical education (CTE) programs to make sure they were on target. Over half of employers (56% of 458) reported that they are currently involved with local schools, including internships (35%), classroom presentations (18%), job shadowing (16%) and more.

Consistent with last year’s results, over two-thirds of employers (72% of 508) said they were getting little to no support from Indiana’s workforce development system: Some 36% reported knowing about WorkOne but never having had any contact; 25% accessed the system but were not finding the services helpful; and 11% had no knowledge of these services. Only 19% of employers reported success in hiring applicants using WorkOne recruiters or the Indiana Career Connect job matching system.

“Given the continuing needs of employers and the persistent number of unemployed adults, these responses point to the critical importance of the Governor’s focus on these issues and, specifically, the development of a strategic plan through the Indiana Career Council and local employer engagement through the Works Councils,” Redelman concludes.

According to Brinegar, the results of this employer survey will also guide how the Indiana Chamber concentrates its efforts to achieve several goals under the organization’s long-term economic development plan, Indiana Vision 2025.

Among those goals: increase to 60% the proportion of Indiana residents with high quality postsecondary credentials, especially in the STEM-related fields (of science, technology, math and engineering); see a notable increase in Hoosiers having bachelor’s degrees or higher; and develop, implement and fully fund a comprehensive plan for addressing the skills shortages of adult and incumbent workers who lack minimum basic skills.

View the survey results and executive summary at www.indianachamber.com/education.

July/August BizVoice Building a Buzz

Today, we’re unveiling our July/August edition of BizVoice magazine.

And the headline is actually a joking nod to our cover story about drones… assuming they make some sort of buzzing sound as they fly. If they don’t, well, let’s just ignore it and move on.

This issue covers a gamut of topics. Here are a few of the top stories (but you can view the full edition via our interactive online version):

Internships: A Taste of the ‘Real World’

I’ve now been interning at the Indiana Chamber for four weeks. I’ve settled in, evidenced by the papers strewn across my desk, the calendar tacked to my cubicle marked with deadlines and meetings and the way I’ve found my daily routine when I’m at work. I can now even wake up at 6 a.m. (which I confess was an adjustment after my second-semester schedule of afternoon classes) without the same amount of incredulity that people do in fact do this every day.

Then again, that’s kind of the point of an internship. It’s answering that big question: Can I do this every day? Or, even better: Can I do this every day and be happy? It’s glimpsing the infamous “real world” and finding what you could wake up at 6 a.m. every day for.

This is my second internship, and though the nature of the work I’m doing here is very similar to what I did previously, I’ve realized that work environment is a significant factor for me — and probably most other people, as well. I’ve genuinely enjoyed being at the Chamber this past month and getting to know and learning from the great people in my department.

And I’ve learned a substantial amount already. I appreciate all of the constructive criticism and feedback I’ve received, and I know that it will be valuable to me in any career path that I choose after graduation.

I know that I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to do internships before I graduate next spring. Not only am I gaining practical experience, but I’m discovering different factors that I want in a future job. Additionally, I’m getting the chance to test my compatibility with a career field I’m interested in.

I think that’s what is so beneficial about internships. As someone who has previously struggled to lay out a clear post-graduation plan (except, of course, working hard to find a job of some sort), my internships have helped show me a viable option to pursue, one where I could come to work every day and derive a sense of accomplishment from what I’m doing. But had I not done any internships, I’m certain I would be feeling pretty lost standing on the cusp of my senior year.

All of that being said, I’m not yet halfway through this internship, and I’m excited for the experiences and learning that await.

Chamber’s Bill Waltz: State Budget Holding Steady for Now

There are plenty of ways to parse the revenue collections over the first 10 months of the current (2014) fiscal year. Officially, the general fund numbers are 0.5% below the most recent (December 2013) forecast. But they are 1.7% below the 2013-2015 budget based targets. Neither percentage warrants great concern, representing in dollars $61 million (0.5%) and $194 million (1.7%), respectively. But the last two months of fiscal year 2014 will be worth noting for the purpose of identifying trend lines. The March and April numbers came in very close to the December forecast, but the problem is the December forecast adjusted the predictions downward from the April 2013 forecast on which the budget is based.

Last month’s actual collections were 6.4% below the original forecast. So there is a need for the May and June collections to be close to the revised forecast amounts, or else the budgeting going into the second fiscal year of this biennium will get trickier. If those collections drop off, the forecasters and budget-makers will be looking at less than desired numbers going into the new budget making session next year. Sales tax revenues are the real key since they make up 49% of the collections. The sales tax numbers are not bad, but are very modest, showing 1.5% growth over last year. Corporate revenues remain stalwart, 14.5% above target for the year. On the other end, gaming remains down, 7.1% below target. All in all, the budget is in an alright place, but there is a lot to be determined in the coming months as far as expectations going into the next biennium.

Stay Tuned for Real Interim Action on Tax Issues
Nothing is happening just yet, but things are in the works: This will not be an ordinary interim for tax matters. The Pence administration is currently busy organizing a major event for next month. The initiative, dubbed the Indiana Tax Competitiveness and Simplification Conference, is set for June 24. It will be opened by Gov. Pence and feature a few nationally recognized speakers. There will also be panel sessions on a variety of tax subject areas. Panelists will have a work group type format. This is a “by invitation” conference. More details will be reported next month.

Dovetailing the Governor’s conference to some degree will be the Blue Ribbon Commission established by SEA 1-2014. It is expected that his body will begin to take shape in the coming weeks.

The Legislative Council has recognized the commission (referenced as the Commission on Business Personal Property and Business Taxation) in conjunction with the other interim committees sanctioned for interim activity (via Council Resolution 14-01). Senate Pro Tem David Long will name one of his Senate colleagues as the chair and Speaker Brian Bosma will name one of his House colleagues as the vice chair. Four other legislators will likewise be appointed, while the Governor will have a designee. And the remaining seven members will be laypersons representing various interested parties, including the Indiana Chamber, the Indiana Manufacturers Association, the Realtors Association, agriculture and local governments.

Chamber Analysis of Governor’s Request to Expand Healthy Indiana Plan

The Pence administration last week unveiled plans to request a waiver from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP). This expansion of HIP would be in lieu of a traditional Medicaid expansion. The announcement had been anticipated for several weeks.

The Healthy Indiana Plan, or HIP 2.0 as it is now being referred to, will have three “pathways” to coverage: HIP Basic, HIP Plus and HIP Employer Benefit Link. It is funded through the existing cigarette tax, the hospital assessment fee and federal Medicaid funds.

The Basic HIP plan is for Hoosiers below 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL). Basic members use an entirely state funded power account (similar to a health savings account) to cover a $2,500 annual deductible. The HIP Plus plan is for Hoosiers under 138% of FPL. They will be required to make contributions that range from $3-$25 per month. Members of HIP Plus and the state will jointly fund the power account based on a sliding income scale. This plan also includes dental and vision coverage.The HIP Employer Benefit Link allows HIP eligible individuals to enroll in either HIP Plus or receive a defined contribution power account funded by the state to access an employer-sponsored program. The defined contribution must be used to pay for premiums, co-pays or deductibles.

The Indiana Chamber has supported the expansion of HIP as an alternative to a traditional Medicaid expansion. The HIP plan has encouraged individual responsibility by attempting to mirror consumer driven health plans. HIP also reimburses at 100% of Medicare (higher than Medicaid), which ensures more provider participation and reduces cost shifting to the private sector, a point that is important to employers. The Indiana Chamber believes that the HIP Employer Benefit Link option will be an interesting program to potentially provide coverage to Indiana’s working poor. The Indiana Chamber will be securing more details on how the program will be implemented and will provide our members that information as it is received.

On a related note, this $25 million budget savings to the state – if the HIP expansion is approved by CMS – could cause some problems for insurance carriers providing health insurance coverage to the individual market in the insurance exchange/marketplace. The state is transitioning from a (209b) state, with its own disability definition, to what is called a “1634” state. Under a 1634 state, the administration will accept disability definitions of the Social Security Administration. As a result of the switch, the state will no longer be required to maintain a spend-down program. This program allowed those with high medical expenses to become eligible for Medicaid after they spent a designated portion of their monthly income on medical expenses. As of December 2013, there were over 134,000 people in this spend-down program.

Of that spend-down population, nearly 7,500 have incomes over 100% of FPL. It is this population that will be transferred to the insurance exchange/marketplace to purchase qualified plans in the commercial market. Medicaid claims for those individuals have been over $1,800 per member per month. Total claims for March 2013 through March of 2014 were $134 million. That amount is significantly higher than under normal individual insurance plans.

Insurance carriers participating in the insurance exchange filed their rates in May of last year. Those rates included calculations for the high risk pool being transitioned into the exchange, but the 7,500 “1634” transition eligibles are not included in those rates. This has serious impacts on those carriers: Significant losses to those participating which will result in considerable increases in current rates to cover the cost; those carriers that waited and will be coming into the exchange in 2015 have an advantage over those current participants in that they are taking on none of this additional risk; and for the smaller carriers there is a concern whether they will be able to participate in the exchange in the future, thus potentially jeopardizing Hoosier choices.

The Indiana Chamber will continue to evaluate and comment on this issue as more information is available.

Leave it to Apple Maps to ‘Find’ the Loch Ness Monster

There are many ways to utilize the Internet. For instance, there is a wealth of knowledge on many topics that were previously inaccessible to the masses. Also, the Internet is sometimes just a way to watch videos of kittens being cute.

Often, the World Wide Web gives conspiracy theorists a chance to get together and expound on their (usually insane) theories.

Now, I’ve long given up the idea that mermaids exist, or that Big Foot is a real thing – but there are still things I want to believe are true. The lost city of Atlantis, for example, is extremely fascinating to me. And I will admit that the jury’s always been out for me on whether or not the Loch Ness monster exists (or existed at one time). Enter Apple Maps and satellite imagery.

Recently, someone took note of a grainy image from Apple Maps in the Loch Ness in Scotland.  It looks, at first glance, as if there is a giant monster swimming south in the water. There are fin-like protrusions on each side and it’s in the shape of what you might expect a large monster to look like from above.

Of course, after you look at the image for more than a split second, you realize it looks like a boat wake and not at all a monster floating in the deep, freshwater of the Loch Ness.

This blog post from Southern Fried Science debunks the latest “sighting” pretty easily.

Oh well, it was a fun split second to theorize that there actually is a Loch Ness monster. Guess it’s time to go back to those cute kitten videos until the next crazy conspiracy theory makes a stir. Fingers crossed it’s something related to aliens!

Safety is the Name of the Workplace Game

Two sets of workplace safety numbers to consider:

  • In 2012, there were just over 500,000 nonfatal injuries and illnesses among a U.S. manufacturing workforce of 11.2 million. In that year, 314 manufacturing employees were killed in work-related accidents.
  • Twenty years ago (in 1994), the totals were: 2.2 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses (the manufacturing workforce was 18.3 million) and 789 deaths from occupational injuries.

Are the 314 deaths too many? Undoubtedly. But in 18 years, the manufacturing injury rate was cut by nearly two-thirds and the fatality rate was more than 50% lower.

Kudos to the companies and employees putting a greater emphasis than ever on safety (more than 75% in a recent survey indicated their companies to beyond the safety requirements of government laws and regulations). And keep it up as all of us want to continue to see smaller numbers in these categories.

By the way, it’s never too early to look ahead to the 2015 Indiana Safety and Health Conference & Expo — simply the largest and best event of its kind.

Throwback Thursday: It Was 50 Years Ago Today…

The title of this blog isn’t a clever attempt to rewrite “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” even though it has been 50 years since the Beatles craze swept America. I’m taking us back to another moment in that landmark year: the 1964 World’s Fair.

Picture approximately 51 million visitors. Children squeal with delight on rides. Fairgoers devour sweet treats. Scientists predict (and showcase) revolutionary advances in technology.

Want to know which predictions came through and which didn’t quite pan out? Here’s an excerpt (read full story from NPR):

What they had right:

  • Picturephone: Bell System introduced this innovation, which allowed people to see whom they were calling. It didn’t go over well at the time, but it’s a concept that’s an everyday part of our lives now in apps such as Skype and Facetime.
  • Robotics: Walt Disney’s “It’s a Small World” exhibit introduced robotic animation in which characters sing, speak and make lifelike gestures such as smiles and blinks. It’s still in use in theme parks and movies today.
  • Ford Mustang: The two-seater sports car with its long hood and short rear deck was officially unveiled at the World’s Fair and immediately became popular. It has remained in production ever since.

What they had wrong:

  • Colonies on the moon, underwater and in Antarctica: The “Futurama 2″ ride from General Motors featured images of people living in places where they clearly, uh, don’t.
  • Jet packs: There were demonstrations of jet pack power at the fair, with men wearing them and zooming around the grounds. Sadly, they remain a mode of transport found mainly in science fiction.

Experience this exciting event through the eyes of spectators in photos they submitted to NBC News.

I can’t imagine what’s in store for the next 50 years, but I can say one thing: I am not moving to the moon or Antarctica to join a colony.

Putting Veterans to Work for Your Company

Hiring Our Heroes job fairs, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, continue to make a difference in local communities. The mission is to help veterans and spouses earn meaningful private sector employment.

There are two upcoming events in Indiana:

In addition, the Chamber’s May 2 Policy Issue Conference Call will focus on the same topic with national and state guests discussing this important topic and providing practical guidance for employers. All Indiana Chamber members are eligible to participate.

Throwback Thursday: Water on the Brain

Many involved in the Indiana environmental community are likely aware of our ongoing work on a survey of Indiana water resources in an effort to gauge future supply and demand.The Chamber actually hired Bloomington-based hydrogeologist Jack Wittman for the effort. In fact, read his recent Q & A with Indy-based NUVO magazine on the issue.

Along these lines, we recently discovered a similar report from June 1953, titled “Water Resources Report to Southern Indiana Inc.” The entire document is nearly 70 pages, but here are a few notes from the general summary:

These points are held to be fundamental guides for conducting future work:

1. Present water conditions – supplies; flood damages
2. Potential long-term supply needs
3. Potential long-term supply opportunities
4. Possible reductions of flood losses
5. General benefits to entire area which may result from improvement projects

The valley-wide approach to the water problem of Southern Indiana is all-important because surface water must be the main source of supply.

It is recognized that there now is a tremendous waste of water resources in Southern Indiana. Much water is lost in flood periods during the heavy rainfall seasons of the spring and early summer while many stream beds are almost dry in late summer and fall months. Equalization of the stream flows, therefore, is taken as the key approach to the problem…

It is impossible to propose a “blanket remedy”  for water problems in Southern Indiana. IN any year, losses from drought may be just as severe as losses from flood, or greater. Any storage of water in small watersheds is of much value to farm operations. The value of farming is on equal status with that of manufacturing and commercial activities in the support of the business system.