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The Journal Gazette

Middle-level skills lacking

State looks to boost above-entry-level workforce

A collaborative report between lawmakers, business people, educators and others shows Indiana may struggle to fill middle-skills positions in coming years.

The Indiana Skills2Compete Coalition released the findings Monday and offers solutions to make sure there’s no shortage of electricians, welders, nurses and truck drivers. Among the solutions are: increasing access to financial aid for part-time students, continue to shift certain basic skills training and related education to community-based agencies and maximize on-the-job training

Half of the job openings in 2020 will be in the middle-skills area, the report states. Middle skills candidates are individuals with more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree.

Jessica Fraser is program manager with the Indiana Institute for Working Families. She said the state’s economy is on the rebound and employers are starting to seek more workers. While 54 percent of all jobs in Indiana are deemed middle-skill, only 47 percent of Hoosiers likely have the credentials to fill the positions, she said.

“We have to be able to move the needle forward and retrain these workers,” Fraser said.

Many part-time students are older adults and can be left out of financial aid opportunities available for full-time students as well.

“We have to address that,” she 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.

Fraser was among officials who met at Group Dekko in Garrett. Attendees included Kathleen Randolph of WorkOne Northeast, Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and Jennifer Fisher of Group Dekko.

Another pressing need is providing additional training and resources to workers ravaged by the recession, Fraser said.

“There are a lot of people out there who, through no fault of their own, loss their jobs during that period,” she said. “We have to find ways to give them credit for what they know.”