by Brian Burton

Everywhere you go and everyone you talk to, the topic of conversation is the need to find a qualified workforce. If the goal, as adopted by the Indiana Career Council, is to have 60% of Indiana’s workforce by 2025 obtaining some form of post-secondary degree, we have a long way to go.

Currently, only 34% of Indiana’s workforce has the equivalent of a two-year post-secondary degree or more. Projections estimate that our current training system will only reach a level of 41% with the necessary post-secondary training by the year 2025. That gap equates to nearly 675,000 Hoosiers who will be needed with the requisite skills to fill the vacancies in the future.

Filling jobs is no easy task. According to a recent survey by Deloitte, 84% of corporate executives agree there is a talent shortage in manufacturing. Finding the right workers is difficult. It takes 70 days to recruit a skilled production worker and an average of 94 days to find engineers, researchers and scientists. Six out of 10 open-skilled production positions are unfilled due to talent shortages.

Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be needed. It is estimated that nationally more than 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled due to the skills gap. This is compounded by the retirement of nearly 2.7 million baby boomers by 2025. Currently, the average production worker is 42.9 years old. This is a highly skilled workforce that is difficult to replace.

The implications for the broader economy are even more significant. Every manufacturing job creates another 2.5 new jobs outside of the manufacturing sector. Because of manufacturing concentration in Indiana, the implications are even more significant.

Indiana must develop training programs that are market driven and meet the needs of employers. We must align government policies around a cooperative environment that, first and foremost, works on the front end with employers in developing programs that will fit the needs and gaps for the future.

Currently, there is a window of opportunity. New leadership at Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University provides a chance to review and evaluate existing programs for their effectiveness and impact. Additionally, the Department of Workforce Development is taking valuable steps to mold a system into a demand-driven model. Other providers must also make changes.

The stakes are high. Maintaining the current model is not an option. The Deloitte survey of executives also found that 82% believe the skills gap will impact their future ability to meet customer demand. Our future ability to compete depends upon what we do now.

Brian Burton,
President & CEO
Indiana Manufacturers Association