Report: STEM Message Not Getting Through

It seems as if everyone is talking about the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) talent shortage, but the message is apparently not being heard. Randstad US conducted a study to uncover key motivations, beliefs and perspectives of STEM-related topics among kids aged 11 to 17.

The research shows that despite high interest in STEM studies and confidence in STEM skills at a younger age, interest dwindles as children grow older. Students 11 to 14 years old are 18% more likely than students aged 15 to 17 to consider math one of their favorite subjects. Fifty-six percent of young people also said knowing how STEM skills relate to the real world would make STEM classes more interesting.

“The term ‘STEM’ needs a rebrand and awareness campaign to get the next generation of talent excited about pursuing these careers,” said Alan Stukalsky, chief digital officer for Randstad North America. “Young people are self-selecting out of higher STEM education classes because they can’t see how these skills apply to different professions and employers they’re excited about. It’s a misperception and a serious economic problem, as a rapidly growing number of jobs now require STEM competencies. If we don’t find a way to guide and prepare the future workforce for these positions, we run the risk of the need for these skills escalating and the hiring gap expanding.”  

The study revealed not only a lack of students’ awareness of what types of STEM jobs exist, but also a lack of personal connection to STEM professionals and how STEM jobs are defined.

  • 52% of students say they don’t know anyone with a job in STEM, and more than 1 in 4 students (27%) say they haven’t talked to anyone about jobs in STEM.
  • Almost half (49%) of respondents say they don’t know what kind of math jobs exist and 76% report not knowing a lot about what engineers do.
  • 87% think people who study STEM work at companies like NASA; far fewer associate them with mainstream consumer brands like Instagram (40%) and Coca-Cola (26%).

Young people reported high enthusiasm for careers not explicitly defined as STEM but requiring related skills, suggesting the need for broader education as to how STEM skills can be applied in fields beyond math and science.

  • 64% of students rate creating video games for a living as very fun, while 90% rate it somewhat fun.
  • 54% of respondents think it would be very fun to earn a living working with marine life, with 89% rating it as at least somewhat fun.
  • 47% think it would be very fun to make web sites for a living, with 86% saying it would be at least somewhat fun.

New Training Grants for Employers Now Available

The Indiana Chamber has been strongly encouraging our state government leaders to take bold action to address Indiana’s current and future workforce needs – a significant concern for many of our members.

We’re pleased to see Gov. Holcomb’s recent rollout of the Next Level Jobs initiative, which will help to further ensure employees have the skills needed to compete in the 21st century workforce.

What does this mean for your business?

Employer Training Grants are available! Employers in high-demand business sectors can be reimbursed up to $2,500 for each new employee that is trained, hired and retained for six months.

• Your employees can also take advantage of Workforce Ready Grants and access free education opportunities to help sharpen their skill set for the changing workforce.

Let us know if you need assistance in navigating these opportunities.

Number of Independent Workers Continues to Climb

The independent workforce continues to grow and mature, even as the economy continues to rebound and the unemployment rate declines, according to MBO Partners, the nation’s largest provider of business services and tools to the self-employed and companies that engage them. The company released its 2017 State of Independence in America report, the country’s longest-running end-to-end survey of the American independent workforce.

According to the new report, the total number of self-employed Americans aged 21 and above rose to 40.9 million in 2017, up 2.8% from 2016. Independents, who now represent about 31% of the U.S. civilian labor force, are distributed across every demographic, age, gender, skill and income group.

Over 40% of the U.S. adult workforce reports either currently working or having worked as an independent at one time during their careers. Over the next five years, MBO Partners projects that fully half of the U.S. adult workforce will have experienced what independent work can offer.

Independents work in all segments of the U.S. workforce and are of vital impact to our economy, generating roughly $1.2 trillion of revenue for the U.S. economy, equal to about 6% of U.S. GDP.

Three key trends emerged from this year’s study:

  • The number of high earning independents rose for the sixth year in a row. Ongoing economic expansion enables those whose skills are in high demand to get more work and to command a premium for their services. Now, 3.2 million full-time independents make more than $100,000 annually, up 4.9% from 2016 and an annualized increase of more than 3% each year since 2011.

  • More Americans are seeking to supplement their income with part-time independent work or “side gigging.”Though the economy is getting stronger, the typical American worker has seen very little – if any – wage gains. As a result, many Americans who are struggling to keep up with inflation and higher costs are supplementing their income with part-time independent work or side gigging. Fueled in part by the growth of the increasing number of online platforms, the number of people working as occasional independents (those working irregularly or sporadically as independents but at least once per month) soared 23% to 12.9 million, up from 10.5 million in 2016.

  • A strong job market has created a “barbell effect” on both sides of the independent work spectrum. Work opportunities are growing on both sides of the spectrum – both unskilled and skilled – creating a barbell effect. At the low end of the market, there is growing demand for online platform workers, such as Uber drivers or TaskRabbiters, who usually go independent to supplement income, learn new skills or even to socialize in retirement. On the other end of the spectrum, we see a strong rise in entrepreneurial independent professionals earning significant incomes by offering unique services in areas such as technology and marketing.

Tech Talk: Catching Up on Indiana Chamber Activity

A busy June at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce included items of importance to the innovation and entrepreneurship communities. A brief overview:

Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card
The every-other-year evaluation of our state’s economic performance includes the Dynamic and Creative Culture driver. Unfortunately, the statewide statistical measures don’t match up to the progress being seen in central Indiana and other select areas. Indiana is tied for 44th in the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Index and 35th in venture capital invested.

There are strong performances in university business spinouts, foreign direct investment and exports.

Full details and summaries at www.indianachamber.com/2025.

10th annual employer workforce survey 
While the Report Card showed some progress in educational measures, this survey reinforced the ongoing skills mismatch. Two numbers: 47% of respondents left jobs unfilled in the past year due to under-qualified applicants and 79% indicate filling their workforce is among their biggest challenges. Both trends have only increased over the past four years.

The survey also looks at workforce recruitment strategies, training and drug testing.

Details at www.indianachamber.com/education.

Coming Your Way

  • The July-August BizVoice® includes, among other features, visits to four co-working spaces around the state and a column on the green Internet of Things.•
  • Coming in mid-July is the new EchoChamber podcast. Technology and innovation will be one of the featured subjects. Catch a sneak preview at www.indianachamber.com/echochamber.

Employer Survey: Skilled Workers Scarce; Few Take Advantage of Tuition Reimbursement

A new employer survey from the Indiana Chamber shows concerning trends in workforce shortages, tuition reimbursement and response to prescription opiate abuse.

“Too often employers can’t find the workers they need, and those currently employed aren’t taking advantage of tuition reimbursement that would put them in better positions,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

More than 1,100 businesses from throughout the state took part in the Indiana Chamber Foundation’s 10th annual employer survey, sponsored by WGU Indiana and conducted in partnership with Indiana-based Walker.

Specifically, research shows that nearly half (47%) of employers left jobs unfilled in the past year due to under-qualified applicants. That extended a trend from the previous three years in which the answers to that same question were 39%, 43% and 45%, respectively.

Additionally, almost 80% (79%) percent cited filling their workforce as among their biggest challenges. That number is also on the rise from 72%, 74% and 76% in the previous three years.

Once again, more than half of employers (53%) expect to increase the size of their workforce in the next one to two years. But their challenges are even larger with 54% saying the supply of qualified applicants does not meet demand and 85% placing the filling of talent needs as among their critical challenges.

“In many cases, it’s not a lack of a four-year degree or higher educational achievement. Two-thirds require less than a bachelor’s degree for their unfilled jobs,” Brinegar explains. “This puts additional emphasis on the certificates, credentials and associate degrees in which Indiana, unfortunately, trails the majority of states.”

But it’s not always a lack of education or training that leads to the unfilled positions. In the view of employers, 45% of applicants are unwilling to accept the pay/compensation offered and 28% are not attracted to the community where the job is located.

In the training world, there appear to be some missed opportunities for employers and their workers. Only 40% of the respondents indicate that they partner with an educational institution to help meet their training needs.

For the employees, nearly half (48%) have access to tuition reimbursement programs but very few take advantage of those opportunities. From the employer perspective, 60% said employees have no desire or motivation to participate and 35% believe workers see no personal benefit in advancing their education.

“Part of the problem is employees not having the funds to cover the tuition payments upfront that will be reimbursed at some point by their employer. And that’s a common arrangement for these programs,” Brinegar offers.

“But we also know if employers pay for the tuition directly to the school – which is obviously easier for larger companies – more workers are likely to take part. We heard from one of our members who saw participation jump from about 50 employees to more than 400 when that change was made. So that is something the Indiana Chamber will be looking at this summer in our business-higher education committee to see what public policy recommendations may make sense.”

When it comes to prescription opiate misuse, less than half (47%) of the respondents said they drug tested employees for it in safety-sensitive positions. On a broader scale, 56% of employers said they tested any employee if they suspected misuse or abuse of prescription opiates. However, more than a third (34%) of employers indicated they did not know how to detect such misuse or abuse.

The survey results are available at www.indianachamber.com/education.

The annual employer survey complements the work the Indiana Chamber is doing with the Outstanding Talent driver in the Indiana Vision 2025 long-term economic development plan for the state.

Indiana Vision 2025 measures Indiana’s progress compared to other states on 36 goals in the four driver areas of Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure, and Dynamic and Creative Culture. The latest Report Card showing how Indiana ranks was released earlier this month and is available at www.indianachamber.com/2025.

Brain Drain/Gain Workshop Yields Comprehensive Report

In late April, Purdue University partnered with the Indiana Chamber, Indiana INTERNnet and others to present a brain drain/gain workshop as part of the Chamber’s 53rd Annual Human Resources Conference. Panel discussions, presentations and more on the talent/skills gap were compiled into a comprehensive report. Read the full report.

It documents the workshop, including key takeaways and actions and is provided to those with an interest in these topics. Our aim is for the information in the report to be a resource for those working to make progress within their organization and forming collaborations with other stakeholders to move Indiana forward.

Gov. Holcomb Statement on the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card

Gov. Holcomb offered the following statement on the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card and 10th annual workforce survey released Tuesday:

This report card makes clear our state’s strengths and challenges: Indiana is a top state for doing business, but to meet the demands of our growing economy we must double-down on efforts to attract and prepare a ready workforce.

There is no single solution for improvement. The only way we’ll take our state to the next level is with a comprehensive strategy, and Indiana has the right roadmap.

From improving roads and bridges to attacking the drug epidemic, from prekindergarten to adult career training, from more direct flights to enhanced regional development—all of these efforts combined will help build healthier, more vibrant communities that are magnets for jobs and growth.

Now is the time for our state’s leaders to come together and put in the hard work that will improve the lives of Hoosiers.

We appreciate the governor’s support and attentiveness to our efforts.

Survey: Where Will the Workers Come From?

Several straightforward conclusions can be drawn from the ninth annual workforce survey conducted by the Indiana Chamber and its foundation.

The good news is that respondents are optimistic about growing their businesses over the next one to two years. The challenge, however, is that they don’t know where they are going to find the workers to allow that growth to take place.

For the third consecutive year, the number of jobs left unfilled due to underqualified applicants increased. So did the number of employers who identified filling the workforce as their biggest challenge.

“There is a reason that Outstanding Talent is the top driver in our Indiana Vision 2025 plan,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “The survey once again reinforces the work that must be done at so many levels to increase the skills of our current and future workers.”

View the press release and additional survey charts.

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Employer Survey: Downward Workforce Trend Continues

More than half of respondents to a recent survey expect their workforces to grow in the next two years, but more of those employers continue to leave jobs unfilled and rank meeting talent needs as among their biggest challenges.

There were 671 respondents to the ninth annual employer survey, conducted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and its foundation. WGU Indiana sponsored the survey, sent to Indiana Chamber members and customers. Participating companies included 58% with fewer than 100 employees and 27% with between 100 and 500 employees. Leading industries represented were manufacturing (21%) and health care/social assistance (11%).

While there were not dramatic changes from workforce results in recent years, several downward trends continued. Companies that left Indiana jobs unfilled in 2015 due to under-qualified applicants increased to 45% – compared to 43% and 39%, respectively, for the prior two years. In addition, 27% of respondents identified filling their workforce and meeting talent needs as ­­their biggest challenge. Another 49% categorized the talent needs as “challenging but not their biggest challenge.” The 76% total exceeds the numbers for 2015 (74%; 24% biggest challenge) and 2014 (72%; 20% biggest challenge).

This comes despite the percentage of respondents requiring an industry certification or occupational license for unfilled jobs declining from 27% in the 2015 survey to 16% in 2016. At the same time, the minimum requirement of a high school diploma increased from 34% to 39%.

On the other end of the education spectrum, more employers are also raising the bar. Employers requiring a bachelor degree as the minimum level for the unfilled jobs increased from 23% a year ago to more than 28% in 2016. This reaffirms the importance of moving the current workforce toward degree completion.

More than half (52%) of survey respondents indicated they do not offer tuition reimbursement. Of those providing the tuition assistance, only 11% of companies see at least 10% of their employees taking advantage of the benefit. This serves as a potential additional detriment to reaching the Outstanding Talent goals, particularly in elevating the skills of incumbent workers. Recent Cigna Corporation research shows a $1.29 return generated for each $1 investment in tuition reimbursement.

Additional results include:

  • Personal qualities (work ethic, responsibility, initiative) and critical thinking skills were cited as most challenging to find among job applicants and new hires at 63% and 54%, respectively
  • More than half (54%) of companies expect to grow their workforce in the next 12 to 24 months. Forty-one percent anticipate no change, with 4% seeing a decrease
  • Pending retirements continue to be a factor as 57% say up to 5% of their employees will be eligible to retire within the next five years (27% place the percentage of eligible retirees as high as 10%)

View the survey results at www.indianachamber.com/education.

The Indiana Chamber and its foundation, focused on providing research and solutions to enhance Indiana’s economic future, have resources to assist employers, job seekers and students.

IndianaSkills.com provides job supply and demand information both statewide and regionally. It utilizes current labor market data to help companies, prospective workers and students understand Indiana’s workforce landscape. Salary data, required skills and certifications, and creation of effective job descriptions are among the featured tools.

Indiana INTERNnet has been connecting students and employers for internship opportunities for 15 years. The easy-to-use web site, informative Intern Today, Employee Tomorrow guide and regional partnerships are supplemented by additional outreach programs.

The Indiana Vision 2025 plan measures Indiana’s progress compared to other states on 36 goals in the four driver areas of Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure, and Dynamic and Creative Culture.

Employer Survey Results: Companies Anticipate Growth, Lack Workforce Needed

An annual Indiana Chamber of Commerce statewide workforce survey reinforces a common theme: Indiana companies are prepared to grow, but nearly three-quarters of the 526 respondents report that filling their workforce is challenging.

Economic prospects are bright. Fifty-eight percent of respondents expect the size of their workforce to increase in the next 12 to 24 months and another 38% anticipate stable employee counts. These mirror 2014 numbers (57% and 39%, respectively) and reinforce a shift from 2013 when just 36% foresaw growth and 59% looked at no changes in employee numbers.

As far as finding those employees, 74% note the challenge – with 24% reporting that “filling our workforce is our biggest challenge.” These results are a slight increase from 2014 findings of 72% indicating a challenge and 19% labeling it their biggest issue. Forty-three percent report they have left jobs unfilled in Indiana due to under-qualified candidates (a 4% increase over 2014).

“The continued positive outlook from Indiana employers is encouraging,” contends Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “But despite various programs and local examples of strong education-business connections, it’s clear that much more work remains to provide workers with the skills they need for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs.”

The survey, in its eighth year, is provided to Indiana Chamber members and customers throughout the state. The largest respondent groups were organizations with between 50 and 249 employees (40%), 1-49 employees (36%) and manufacturing/advanced manufacturing industries (38%). The 2015 effort was sponsored by WGU Indiana.

“It’s important to hear the voice of Indiana employers – and for educators and workforce development professionals to partner with businesses to help meet their needs,” confirms Dr. Allison Barber, chancellor of WGU Indiana. “Addressing the skills gap and preparing both students and current members of the workforce for the next phase of their careers is an essential role for all involved in this profession.”

Additional key results from the 2015 survey:

  • Critical thinking skills and personal qualities (responsibility, work ethic, willingness to learn) were cited as the most challenging to find among job applicants and new hires at 56% and 55%, respectively.
  • While business-education partnerships have increased, a large gap remains. Of the respondents to a question asking about different types of engagement with local K-12 and postsecondary schools, 99 (28%) organizations indicate they are not involved currently but would like to be.
  • Despite an increasing state and national focus on experiential learning opportunities for students, more than 200 respondents said they do not have an internship program. Lack of time to hire and manage interns (36%) and the need for more information on starting an internship initiative (19%) were the top reasons given.
  • A full 80% (45% definitely and 35% probably) indicated they would value a work ethic certificate issued by high schools that would demonstrate a student’s commitment to attendance, discipline, teamwork and other “soft skills.”
  • More than three-quarters (77%) of those responding say they have no issues with job candidates expressing concerns about Indiana business locations or quality of life issues.

View the survey results at www.indianachamber.com/education.

The Indiana Chamber and its Foundation, focused on providing research and solutions to enhance Indiana’s economic future, have tools to assist employers, job-seekers and students.

IndianaSkills.com provides job supply and demand information both statewide and regionally. It utilizes current labor market data to help companies, prospective workers and students understand Indiana’s workforce landscape. Salary data, required skills and certifications, and creation of effective job descriptions are among the featured tools.

Indiana INTERNnet has been connecting students and employers for internship opportunities for nearly 15 years. The easy-to-use web site, informative Intern Today, Employee Tomorrow guide and regional partnerships will be supplemented by additional outreach programs.

“These resources are available for everyone throughout the state,” Brinegar says. “The importance of enhancing our workforce and allowing companies the opportunity to succeed at the highest levels cannot be overvalued. Outstanding Talent remains the key driver in the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan.”

The Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card update for 2015, measuring Indiana’s progress on metrics related to the 33 goals in the plan, will be released on June 18. Both the Report Card and workforce survey results, along with Outstanding Talent best practices, will be the focus of six regional forums. Five of those sessions take place between June 22 and June 30 with visits to Fort Wayne, Evansville, Indianapolis, Merrillville and Elkhart. The sixth forum will be in July in Sellersburg.