News and Tribune

Clark County

January 25, 2013

Pence highlights New Albany’s Beach

Governor calls for more vocational training to close ‘skills gap’

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

The exact number of jobs that are empty because employers can’t find workers with the right abilities is hard to track. But the U.S. Department of Labor reports more there are more than 300,000 factory jobs waiting to be filled. In December, Indiana’s work force development office reported more than 7,000 manufacturing jobs that were unfilled.

State Rep. Steve Stemler, a Democrat from Jeffersonville, said he was “very encouraged and supportive” of Pence’s initiative to strengthen vocational training, both in high school and beyond. Stemler, who heads a family-owned plumbing company that does both residential and commercial work, knows the need.

“We need to hire four additional well-trained plumbers right now,” Stemler said. “But we’re not able to find the workers with the proper skills sets.”

Republican State Rep. Ed Clere of New Albany, who sits on the House education committee, also is a supporter of the plan. In 2011, Clere introduced a successful measure to give schools a $900 bonus grant for each technical honors diploma they award. Schools already received a $900 grant for awarding an academic honors diploma, but they didn't receive any financial incentive for awarding a technical honors diploma.

Clere said the change helped underscore the value of technical and vocational education.

“Too often, technical and vocational education has been stigmatized or viewed as less valuable than a college or university track,” Clere said. “In fact, it’s every bit as valuable, and we need to treat it that way.”

There are high schools around Indiana that offer vocational and technical training, but Pence’s plan calls for them to strengthened and tied more directly to the demand for higher skilled workers.  

He wants, for example, for there to be much more engagement from employers who can help local school corporations design what he calls “demand-driven curriculum” focused on skills that lead to higher-paying jobs and offer the potential for advancement. Those employers would also offer apprenticeships and internships that could lead to full-time employment.

Pence’s plan calls for an additional $18 million to be devoted to vocational education over the next two years. That’s on top of the $103 million already in his proposed education budget to be spent on vocational training in the state’s high schools.

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