Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

June 19, 2014

Upgrade state's workforce

Growing companies need skilled workers to thrive

During a local symposium on education in May, former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman did not mince words regarding what the region must do to enhance its economic status.

“If your community or your state is not focused on education and workforce development, I would say you might expect to be the least, the last, and the lost in any job attraction effort,” Skillman said.

She emphasized growing companies require skilled workers to thrive.

“If you can’t prove your workforce, then you better be able to show how you’re working to get there,” she stressed.

And, how does a community reach that desired destination?

Former Gov. Evan Bayh, teaming with Haley Barbour, a former governor from Mississippi, has been striving to discover innovative and plausible ideas on how to create well-paying manufacturing jobs.

Working via the Milstein Symposium, a series of research projects focused on restoring the American dream, Bayh and Barbour are confident small- and medium-sized manufacturing jobs are the ticket to strengthening America’s struggling middle class.

The duo recently released a report proposing:

• Talent investment loans to give companies the capital to hire workers needed to expand businesses, plus “up-skill” new and current employees.

• Upside-down programs allowing students to transfer accredited technical training, work experience, military training, or community college coursework toward a bachelor’s degree.

• A skills census to determine current and projected skills needs.

• A national supply chain initiative to fully map America’s manufacturing ecosystems.

• Providing high school students with expanded technology and engineering certification programs.

• Connecting small- and medium-sized manufacturers with the latest innovations.

“The main goal is producing quality employees for our workforce so small manufacturing enterprises can grow, prosper and provide more jobs, higher pay, better benefits, local and regional economic growth and a bigger, more competitive American economy,” Bayh said. “That is the social benefit, first and foremost.”

The mission is clear — enhance the workforce.

Communities enthusiastically embracing the assignment and committing to converting their educational systems in the most efficient and expedient manner possible will be poised to reap those coveted jobs capable of elevating an economy.

— Times-Mail, Bedford

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