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.

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.