BizVoice -- January / February 2018

20 BizVoice/Indiana Chamber – January/February 2018 Closing the skills gap to enable more jobs to be filled and ensuring the state’s tax environment is ripe for business expansion are top priorities for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce in the new legislative session. These and other initiatives were initially announced at the organization’s 2018 Indiana Legislative Preview, where General Assembly caucus representatives also weighed in on those matters and what other policies may take center stage. Readying the workforce “As we increase the number of jobs in the tech sector, it becomes even more important to have additional STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) offerings for K-12 students – especially computer science,” states Caryl Auslander, Indiana Chamber vice president of education and workforce development. “Currently there is not a computer science requirement for graduation; we believe that needs to change. All students should have access to fully explore skills like this that are in demand.” Auslander notes that these goals align with Gov. Eric Holcomb’s agenda item to have all schools offer computer science courses by 2021. Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) agrees with the push. “I think it’s a smart move, but the state has to provide the resources to allow local school corporations to engage in that type of curriculum. … We can’t lay that down as an unfunded type of mandate. “It (a computer science requirement) will help prepare the workforce for the jobs we’re seeking to come to the state of Indiana.” House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) adds, “It’s absolutely critical. Overseas, they are much more focused on this intersection between man and machine. … We’ve got to have these skills in place, and they’ve got to be in place in every school, not just charters and those public schools focused on tech.” Additionally, the Indiana Chamber wants to see more coordination between the state’s education and workforce programs and with the business community. Auslander offers: “This would result in more Hoosiers being educated, trained and subsequently employed in higher-wage jobs that are available but too often are going unfilled.” Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City), who was the House Minority Leader the last five sessions, echoes that call. “We absolutely need to do a better job of talking to the employers themselves. They are the ones who know not (only) what jobs they need today but what jobs they are going to need five years from now. “I don’t think we do a good enough job of allowing that type of feedback to percolate into public policymaking. Then, we have all these disjointed workforce development silos; we’ve tried to some degree to break them down, but they are still there.” Bosma labels workforce development shortcomings as one of the top two most pressing issues facing the state (along with the drug epidemic) and “will work closely with the Governor, who has a strong agenda in this regard.” Chamber Outlines Top Priorities Legislative Outlook By Rebecca Patrick 2018 Legislative Preview The 2018 Indiana Legislative Preview featured a panel discussion with state lawmakers, including Sen. Brandt Hershman (far left) and Sen. Tim Lanane. Then- House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (far right) explained his decision to leave the post and not seek re-election, as House Speaker Brian Bosma and the Indiana Chamber’s Jeff Brantley look on.