Ready Indiana Gets New Leader

A former Indiana Department of Education employee who has spent her career exploring successful post-secondary opportunities for students has joined the Indiana Chamber of Commerce in a newly-defined role. Amy Marsh is now the organization’s director of college and career readiness initiatives.

Marsh will oversee Ready Indiana and Indiana Skills. In addition, she will be a key part of the Indiana Chamber’s expanding workforce development efforts.

An Indianapolis native, Marsh is a graduate of Butler University with a bachelor’s in education and a master’s in school counseling.

Previously, she was an independent consultant focusing on career pathways, school counseling, career and technical education and curriculum development. She has worked for the College Board (the company that administers the SAT) as a senior educational manager in the K-12 division. Prior to that, Marsh worked for the Indiana Department of Education as the state coordinator for advanced placement, international baccalaureate and dual credit and as the assistant director of college and career readiness.

Marsh has also been a school teacher, school counselor and director of high school counseling – all at Indianapolis schools.

‘Dirty Jobs’ Host Brings Trade Scholarships to Indiana

You’ve probably seen “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel at some point, or at least know the basic gist of the show: People call up host Mike Rowe and challenge/invite him to join them for some of the dirtiest, wildest and often incredibly interesting jobs in America.

And he (and a camera crew) joins in on those jobs for a day, giving the rest of us just glimpses into some of the “dirty” jobs that make the world go round.

With experiences from his show as inspiration and first-hand knowledge of the good jobs that come from hard work and skilled trades, Rowe created mikeroweWORKS in 2008 as a Trade Resource Center for people seeking skilled trade employment. The initiative has since grown into a PR campaign promoting hard work and skilled labor. Today, the mikeroweWORKS Foundation is a non-profit organization that gives scholarships and assistance to people seeking skilled trades.

Rowe has testified in front of Congress about the growing skills gap and the student loan crisis plaguing the country. We’ve heard time and again from Hoosier employers that they’d hire for the (sometimes hundreds of) open positions they have available if they could just find employees who have basic skills and show up to work.

An Indiana Chamber-commissioned study from 2009 points to 900,000 Hoosier adults that are in need of adult education and training because they a) don’t possess a high school diploma; b) don’t have a college education and earn less than a living wage; and c) have no college education and speak little or no English.

In early October, the mikeroweWORKS foundation announced a unique scholarship opportunity in partnership with the Midwest Technical Institute – 49 scholarships for full tuition to students who work hard and want to learn a useful skill.

“The only way to close the skills gap is to reward those who exhibit the qualities we want to encourage – the willingness to learn a useful skill, and a solid work ethic. That’s what these scholarships are all about. They’ll have an impact not just on the kids who receive them or the companies that ultimately hire them, but on everyone who benefits from their work. In other words … all of us,” Rowe said in the press release announcing the scholarships.

Applicants submit a 500 word essay on why they are pursuing such a career; a copy of the S.W.E.A.T. pledge (Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo); proof of high school GPA; three letters of recommendation and documentation of the need for financial aid.

And then, the top 100 applicants for each of the school’s seven campuses – there is a campus in Brownsburg – will be asked to submit a short video about why they deserve a scholarship. Via Facebook, the public will vote to choose the winners by who they believe to be the most deserving. Seven applicants for each of the seven schools will be given full-time tuition scholarships.

Rowe’s web site, www.ProfoundlyDisconnected.com, has more information on the scholarship and the mikeroweWORKS Foundation.

VIDEO: Ready Indiana’s Deckard Discusses Workforce Skills Gap

Kris Deckard of Ready Indiana was recently interviewed (as seen at ValpoLife, PortageLife, LaPorteCountyLife, and NWIndianaLife) about solutions to Indiana's troublesome skills gap. The interview illustrates the numerous challenges, but also highlights some of the tools being used to combat them.

Indiana Works Council Up and Running

The goal: Building an education system that leads to workforce readiness.

Last Wednesday, state leaders took another step toward achieving that goal. Gov. Pence launched the Indiana Works Council in Vigo County as a result of the new law that creates regional works councils tasked with coordinating between education, job skills and career training.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Ready Indiana were fervent supporters of this legislation that brings together workforce development groups, employers and schools to evaluate and ensure that career and technical education opportunities for high school students address the workforce needs of the region.

"We need to make sure that our schools work just as well for our kids who want to get a job right away instead of getting a degree,” said Gov. Mike Pence.

Read the story from WTHI.

Taking the Certificate Route

Certificate programs are all the rage (that's a good thing) in higher education. IndianaSkills.com, a part of the Chamber's Ready Indiana initiative, has data and more on the effort to close the skills gap in our state. For a broader perspective on certificates, the Wall Street Journal recently offered the following:

Increasingly crucial to the community colleges that have long catered to students who pursue two-year degrees or get basic credits before attending four-year schools, certificate programs not only cost less on average than a year at college but they also bring higher salaries than those received by job candidates with high school diplomas.

  • Certificate programs are the fastest-growing segment of higher education, drawing younger and older students alike.
  • From 2001 to 2011, the number of certificates of one year or less awarded by public community colleges more than doubled to about 249,000 from about 106,000.
  • Overall, associate degrees at public community colleges increased over the same period, but at a slower rate — from about 443,000 to about 682,000.

The growing interest in certificates follows years of skepticism about noncredit programs, as some observers saw them as gimmicks that had little value beyond the paper they were printed on, while degrees were often regarded as guaranteed pathways to jobs.

The average annual cost of certificate programs is $6,780 at a public community college and $19,635 at a for-profit college. The push toward certificates highlights a growing emphasis on efficiency and completion rates in higher education, an approach that has gained particular traction since President Barack Obama's call for an additional 5 million graduates from community colleges by 2020.

 

Mike Rowe Discusses the Skills Gap

Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" fame recently appeared on "Real Time with Bill Maher." Regardless of your opinion of Maher, listen to what Rowe has to say (although there is some blue language in the piece). It's a useful conversation in which Rowe asserts students are going into deep debt to go to college and study for jobs that don't exist. He basically outlines a more practical approach to education and job training by encouraging pursuit of vocational training and STEM degrees — and more closely matching workforce needs with educational efforts. That is something Hoosier legislators on both sides of the aisle stress these days — and so do we.

Rowe also has a web site at www.profoundlydisconnected.com. Also see www.indianaskills.com, part of the Chamber's Ready Indiana program, for statistics on jobs and skills that require less than a four-year degree.

Ready Indiana recently participated in a meeting including Gov. Mike Pence and German officials on the skills gap topic, as well.

Indiana Learning from German Education Model to Close Skills Gap

Last week, Ready Indiana concierge Kris Deckard had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion with Germany’s ambassador to the U.S., Peter Ammon. The main topic was the “skills gap” in Indiana and how the state could learn from the German system.

Echoing what he said he hears from German companies doing business in the U.S., Ammon told an audience (that included Gov. Mike Pence): “America is a wonderful place to do business. But the lack of a properly trained workforce is where the bottleneck is.”

Ammon said the dual system of vocational education in Germany has helped reduce youth unemployment by giving high-school students the real-world skills and education they need to find good-paying jobs while reducing the number of students with dead-end college degrees. Germany offers vocational training for high school students in about 350 different occupations. About 75% of the cost is picked up by private employers, while the rest of the expense is paid for by the federal and state governments in Germany.

For more, read this report from the German Embassy.

Gigerich: Indiana Business Climate is Good News, Bad News Scenario

Larry Gigerich of site selector Ginovus penned an informative column for Inside INdiana Business about Indiana's business climate. While we have come a long way and are currently envied by many states, there is still work to be done. He writes:

A few weeks ago, the Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack.com released an annual ranking of states for their friendliness to small businesses. Indiana ranked 15th for 2013. The study analyzed several factors including items related to tax climate, work force development and regulatory issues. Eight-thousand small businesses were contacted for feedback regarding the study's criteria. Here is how Indiana ranked in each category.

1. Overall Friendliness: B+
2. Ease of Starting a Business: B+
3. Ease of Hiring: F
4. Regulations: C
5. Health and Safety: D
6. Employment, Labor and Hiring: C-
7. Tax Code: D
8. Licensing: A-
9. Environmental: D
10. Zoning: B-
11. Training and Networking Programs: C-

The grades given to Indiana are not surprising. Work force development and job training have been a focus of Governor Mike Pence and the legislature since the beginning of the year. Indiana's educational achievement, continuing learning for adults in the work force and availability of certification/credential programs have not been where they need to be. While progress has been made, there is still much to be done by government, educational providers, not-for-profits and the private sectors.

Indiana has been recognized as a relatively easy place to start and grow a business. This report points to that in terms of licensing, zoning and other factors affecting the launch of a new business.

The tax code ranking is a bit surprising, but the survey asked small businesses if they were paying too much in taxes for their locations. The elimination of the state inheritance tax, which impacts small and family-owned businesses, could help improve this ranking.

Indiana continues to struggle with rankings where health and environmental issues are considered. In particular, the state's obesity and smoking rates are unacceptably high. These items impact healthcare costs, number of missed days of work and quality of life. In terms of the environment, Indiana's long-term large manufacturing presence has impacted water, air and soil quality. While important steps have been taken in the areas, there is much left to be done.

The top five states for small businesses are (in order): Utah, Alabama, New Hampshire, Idaho and Texas. The bottom five are (in order): Illinois, California, Hawaii, Maine and Rhode Island.

In summary, Indiana's ranking relative to the rest of the country is good. Policymakers in the state should focus on ways to improve our weaknesses in order to move Indiana into the top 10. Due to the fact that Indiana has never been a location for large headquarters for companies, small businesses are and will continue to be the lifeblood of the state's economic growth.