Systemic change requires team effort
Across the US, and even the world, the changing nature of work is a critical challenge for workers, employers, educators, policy-makers and others. When I had the opportunity to serve as Mayor of La Porte, Indiana, and work with a community team growing investment and development in our city, our greatest challenge was not in growing the number of job opportunities, but in connecting individuals with growing and changing careers. Our challenge was one held by communities across the world as the influence of technology and global connectedness are changing the landscape of work faster than ever. While I loved my time as a mayor, I was (and am!) excited to join Governor Holcomb’s team as Secretary of Career Connections and Talent, in a role addressing our premier challenge and opportunity area of talent development. It’s an opportunity where Indiana can lead the nation and world on cracking the code for workforce challenges.
Currently around 92,000 job vacancies exist across Indiana, and as we look ahead to the next ten years, it is estimated Indiana will have one million new job openings. Of these openings 700,000 will be the result of retirements and 300,000 will be entirely new positions. As job opportunities grow, we know Indiana’s skilled workforce must as well. Plus, with the uncertainty of forecasting the future, we must build a nimble workforce with strong critical thinking skills and a commitment to lifelong learning to meet evolving employer needs.
Recognizing this call to leadership, Governor Holcomb dedicated pillar three of his five-pillar 2018 Next Level Agenda to focus on developing a 21st century skilled and ready workforce. The plan outlined in pillar three aims to align education and workforce, with intended outcomes ensuring:
- All Hoosier students receive a baseline education infused with STEM, intellectual curiosity, critical thinking and other attributes that prepare them for lifelong learning
- High school graduates are ready to go to college, pursue meaningful training and employment in a field of their choice, or have skills to go directly into a quality job
- Working age adults are connected to education and career training that is aligned to industry needs and leads directly to employment.
To accomplish this alignment, the state is building the framework for the new system through the Governor’s Education to Career Pathways Cabinet, enabling plans, resources and operations to be locally determined and managed. This cabinet, which I chair, brings together the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Commissioner for Higher Education, Commissioner for Workforce Development and the Director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget.
The plan enables local and regional communities, and their businesses, elected officials, education institutions and other stakeholders, to have the flexibility and funding to design education and workforce training programs that make sense for their economic foundations and employment needs and aspirations.
In addition to the cabinet, the agenda outlines the following steps in 2018 to achieve systemic change in 2019 and beyond:
- Require every Indiana school (K-12) to offer at least one computer science course by 2021 and offer teachers professional development in computer science
- Create career pathways for high school juniors and seniors that prepare them for postsecondary options such as apprenticeships, work-based learning, technical preparation, dual credit, college prep and courses that lead to industry credentials and certifications
- Create the state Office of Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning
- Strengthen K-12 STEM curricula and increase license flexibility for K-12 teachers in technology, STEM and career curricula
- Reduce recidivism and prepare offenders for opportunities in today’s economy
As we build momentum with the plan, we’ve adopted programs to address gaps in high-wage, high-demand areas such as Next Level Jobs which offers two grant types. The Workforce Ready Grant offers free tuition to individuals pursuing education in five high-demand fields, including IT and Business Services, Health and Life Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing, Building and Construction, and Transportation and Logistics. Employers in these fields and in agriculture can apply for the Employer Training Grant to upskill new employees.
Accomplishing these goals takes a team effort with help from all Hoosiers spreading the word about great opportunities and connecting individuals and employers with the skills and resources for success. I am excited to be on our Hoosier team to accomplish these goals!