Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

September 24, 2013

Coalition: Train Ind. adults to fill jobs

Businesses face problem of finding qualified workers.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Training Indiana’s adults who already have finished high school to fill in-demand jobs —such as dental hygienists, plumbers and truck drivers — is the way to solve a growing problem of businesses struggling to find qualified workers, according to a report released Monday.

The report from the Indiana Skills2Compete Coalition shows that 77 percent of the state’s 2020 workforce already has completed high school.

“So we have to start prioritizing adult solutions to the middle skills gap if we’re going to solve it now,” coalition co-chairwoman Jessica Fraser said. “Any changes that we’re going to make to K-12 education are not going to affect our workforce significantly until after 2025.”

Middle-skills jobs are ones that don’t require a four-year college degree.

The new report, which updates one released in 2010, estimates middle-skills jobs will account for more than 550,000 jobs in Indiana through 2020 — 49.8 percent of all job openings. By comparison, high-skill jobs will account for 27.6 percent of jobs and low-skill jobs will account for 22.6 percent.

Fraser said some innovative steps have been taken in the past few years to make sure those still in high school know about the middle-skills job opportunities and to improve their math and reading skills. A similar push needs to be made now for adults, she said.

The coalition also is advocating increasing access to state financial aid for part-time students, saying they don’t have the same opportunity to obtain aid that traditional college students do.

“It’s because historically they have tended to complete college more predictably,” Fraser said.

The report wants every Indiana worker to have access to the equivalent of at least two years of education or training past high school. It also backs state adult education programs providing remedial courses to adults who aren’t ready to immediately attend college.

“That way the state is paying for that remediation and we’re not using Pell Grants and student loans and state financial aid to pay for remediation,” Fraser said.

The coalition, which is co-chaired by state Senate education committee Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, is made up of the National Skills Coalition, the Indiana Institute for Working Families, the Indiana Community Action Association and the Joyce Foundation.

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