The Washington Times-Herald

State News

January 23, 2013

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

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mike Pence’s call, in his State of the State speech, to make vocational education a priority in every high school in Indiana struck a nerve with 75-year-old Bill Beach.

Since 2007, the founder of Beach Mold & Tool has tripled his workforce, to 600, at his manufacturing operations in New Albany and sees more demand coming soon for the tools and plastic parts that his company makes.

But he can’t find enough qualified employees to work on his assembly lines or in some the supervisory and technical jobs that pay up to $30 an hour.

“We’re ready to hire people every day,” Beach said. “But our biggest challenge is finding people with the skills and with the work ethic to do the job.”

Beach knows the value of a good vocational education firsthand. As Pence recounted in his State of the State speech — to an audience that included Beach and his wife, Juanita — Beach was sent off for vocational training in high school by his father, who thought Beach was “good with his hands” but not smart enough to go to college.

Beach came out of that high school work-ready: He got a job as a machinist and later, with his wife, started his own company. An older brother who went off to college to get an engineering degree later came back to work for Beach.

Vocational education — in which students focus on skilled trades that require an increasing amount of technical know-how — can provide students “with a pathway to success,” Pence said in his State of State speech. “It can launch entrepreneurs, give kids a reason to finish high school, and create a well-qualified workforce that will encourage business to build here and grow here.”

Pence’s plan to boost career, vocational and technical education in Indiana high schools is driven by the “skills gap” that leaves employers like Beach frustrated. Despite a high unemployment rate — 8.2 percent in Indiana — there are manufacturing jobs that are going unfilled.

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 workforce development office reported more than 7,000 manufacturing jobs that were unfilled.

State Rep. Steve Stemler, D-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.”

There are high schools around Indiana that offer vocational and technical training, but Pence’s plan calls for them to be 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.

State Rep. Heath VanNatter, R-Kokomo, is a supporter. VanNatter is a home builder who learned his craft in high school, attending the Kokomo Area Career Center, where he learned building construction and design.

“We actually built a house as part of the coursework,” VanNatter said. “That’s how I learned the business I’m in today.”  

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.

Additional funding is critical, said Doug Dillion, director of career-technical education at Vigo County School Corp. Especially, Dillion said, for vocational training in the high skill trades.

“I’m excited,” Dillion said. “But I’ll be more excited when I see the money.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

1
Text Only
State News
  • Our view: Throw open the doors

    As allegations and scandals continue to explode about hidden wait lists and cooked books at VA medical care facilities across the country, with hints of even more heinous findings to come, we have to wonder why it's business as usual in our nation's

    May 29, 2014

  • nws-gb011714 Land Zeppelin 2 (front page pic) Inventor hopes Bike Zeppelin takes off GREENSBURG - A local civil engineer has created a Zeppelin-shaped apparatus that allows bicyclists to ride in the rain without getting wet. Greensburg resident Jim Gorman remembers the day that inspiration struck: Nov. 22, 2011. It rained all day, an

    January 17, 2014 3 Photos

  • Legislator pushes for public disclosure of former meth homes INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Wendy McNamara knew methamphetamine was a scourge on her district in southwestern Indiana, but the damaging effects of the drug really hit her when she met a real estate appraiser who’d suffered lung damage after visiting a

    December 14, 2013

  • Bird statue to be unveiled in Terre Haute Serving double duty as a baseball infielder for the American League's Toronto Blue Jays and basketball guard for Brigham Young University, 20-year-old Danny Ainge found time in March 1979 to drive from Provo, Utah, to Salt Lake City to catch an in-pe

    November 5, 2013

  • news school bill.jpg Pence announces school safety grants

    Flanked by fourth-grade members of the Ambassadors Club and student council at Cedar Elementary School here, Gov. Mike Pence announced more than $9 million in grants for schools statewide to enhance their security.

    November 1, 2013 1 Photo

  • Coats returns home to listen to Hoosiers INDIANAPOLIS -- Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Coats returned home to Indiana this week, hoping to turn the political conversation away from a failed GOP strategy that partially shut down the federal government and toward what he sees as more critical issu

    October 24, 2013

  • Congressman standing firm on government shutdown

    Todd Rokita of Indiana’s Fourth Congressional District has been an outspoken opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — a k a Obamacare — since it was signed into law in 2010.

    On Tuesday, the first day the federal government partially shut down in 17 years, the Republican congressman wasn’t backing down.

    October 1, 2013

  • Laws that carry automatic loss of driver's license under review INDIANAPOLIS -- The legislative study committee that proposed the massive rewrite of Indiana's felony code will soon take on another tough issue: The automatic penalty that causes thousands of Hoosiers to lose their driving privileges for committing

    September 19, 2013

  • Gingerich_AP PHOTO.jpg Prison sentence of 12-year-old prompts new juvenile sentencing law

    Three years ago, when 12-year-old Paul Henry Gingerich became the youngest person in Indiana ever sent to prison as an adult, his story gained international attention and sparked questions about whether children belong behind bars with grown-up offenders.

    June 14, 2013 2 Photos

  • Supt_Ritz 1 .jpg Ritz orders independent analysis of ISTEP results

    Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has hired an outside expert to determine the validity of ISTEP+ test scores of nearly 80,000 students who were kicked offline while taking the high-stakes standardized test.

    June 10, 2013 1 Photo