Freelancing Frenzy to Continue

(Originally published in smallbiztrends.com)

In the coming decade, the majority of workers in the U.S. are expected to be freelancers, according to a report from Edelman Intelligence.

The study surveyed 6,000 U.S. workers to determine changing working patterns and the impact freelancing will have on the future of working and employment practices in the U.S. This trend is being driven by the millennial generation, of which 47% currently freelance.

Technology is playing a huge role in changing workplace practices and ushering in the rise of freelancing, says Amy Sept, managing editor of the Upwork blog. According to the survey, 71% of freelancers said the work they acquired online has increased during the past year.

Despite income predictability being perceived as a barrier to freelancing, the report found 63% of freelancers believe working for a range of different clients, and therefore generating multiple income streams, is more secure than relying on one employer. Freelancers, on average, have 4.5 clients every month.

Savvy freelancers are also looking to the future, keen to learn new skills. The report found that 55% of freelancers took part in skills-related training, compared to just 30% of non-freelancers.

Chamber Talks Workforce Needs, Impact of Opioid Addiction as 2018 Legislative Session Begins

As the 2018 General Assembly gets underway, the Indiana Chamber is highlighting three big issues expected to be debated in the coming days and weeks: workforce needs, the opioid crisis and smoking rates.

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar says, “We’ve done so well recently from an employment standpoint that we’ve almost outstripped our ability to hire skilled workers since unemployment is so low in the state.

“It’s clear we need to raise up the skills of those who are here, but the Indiana Chamber is also suggesting that perhaps we need to pursue a parallel strategy of recruiting people from out of state. Talent is more mobile than ever before and once people gethere, they really appreciate our cost of living.”

But make no mistake, Brinegar stresses, the state’s priority should be on the potential talent pool at home. That means some major changes will need to occur – ones that hopefully start in the new legislative session.
“What we’ve been doing wrong is saying, ‘Here is our program, you come use it and we hope that it will solve your needs.’ Instead, there should be a conscious effort to truly listen to employers and then develop training programs that are demand-driven to what the needs of the marketplace are now.”

Many of those jobs today and down the road are in the middle skills area – skills that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year bachelor’s degree. Brinegar states this should be a focus for both Hoosier workers who need to improve their skillset and young students.

“We know from our member companies that they are reaching down to high schools and even middle schools to explore with students what job opportunities there are with their companies, what skills they need to have, what classes they need to take in high school to be eligible to take those jobs. It’s becoming a lot more focused on getting people ready with some specificity for jobs after high school.

“There will always be the need for a number of jobs requiring a four-year degree or more, but the real growth is in show me what you know, show me what you can do, show me what machinery you can operate. That’s the mindset we need to have to transform some of these government silos … along with listening to employers and creating programs that communicate to young people what those job needs are.”

Additionally, the Indiana Chamber is partnering with the Governor’s office and the state’s drug czar, Jim McClelland, to be the source for the business component of the state’s plan to combat the opioid crisis.

“We will be researching on best practices, disseminating information to employers and putting on training programs. I’ve told the Governor’s office that we want to be part of the effort and part of the solution. It’s a big problem and it’s not going to be solved overnight, but this has become an employer problem in addition to a personal and societal problem,” Brinegar offers.

“We’ve rapidly gotten to the point to where employers almost can’t fire somebody for failing a drug test because there isn’t the depth in the workforce to tap into for new workers. Employers are looking for guidance. They want more information on what they can do, how they can train supervisors to recognize signs and know where the effective treatment programs are.”

The Indiana Chamber, a founding member of the Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, would like the same urgency placed on reducing the state’s smoking rates.

“There are 10 times more people dying from smoking-related illnesses every year than opioids. And it’s the most preventable source of disease,” Brinegar notes.

“We need to improve our health metrics, including obesity, which are in the bottom third of the states. I rarely accept average for anything, but if Indiana rose to be just average when it comes to smoking, that would significantly curb health issues and save those individuals and businesses a lot of money on insurance coverage and health care costs.”

Indiana’s current smoking rate is at 21% of the population; the national average is 15%.

Enhanced workforce efforts and reducing the state’s smoking rates are among the Indiana Chamber’s Top 9 legislative priorities for 2018. The full list is available at www.indianachamber.com/priorities.

Next Level Jobs: An Inside Look for Building and Construction

Building trades and construction are one of the five focuses of Gov. Holcomb’s Next Level Jobs initiative. A free one-hour webinar on December 14 – Next Level Jobs: An Inside Look for Building and Construction – will inform you how your company can benefit.

This webinar is specifically for building trades and construction. Additional webinars on other target industries will take place in early 2018. Learn how employers can be reimbursed up to $2,500 per employee (and $25,000 total) for your training programs. Leaders from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and Indiana Commission for Higher Education will discuss building and construction-specific occupations eligible for the Employer Training Grant initiative. Workforce Ready Grants for individuals will also be explained.

The Indiana Chamber is pleased to partner with the Department of Workforce Development to present this opportunity. Even if you cannot directly participate in the 10:30-11:30 a.m. (EST) webinar on December 14, do sign up and you will receive a follow-up link to the recording of the program.

Register today. You will receive a confirmation email containing webinar-specific information.

As a reminder, your Indiana Chamber is helping you tackle the workforce challenge in a variety of ways. This video explains some of our efforts:

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.