By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS — With 92,000 vacant jobs across Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb Wednesday rolled out a 2018 agenda that placed workforce development at the top.
“This year we are going to be focused on people,” Holcomb said. “For Indiana to remain ranked No. 1 in 2017 and beyond, we have to make sure our workforce is skilled up to meet the needs of the future.”
A year after Holcomb was elected governor, he unveiled his 2018 agenda to a gathering of the media, government officials and others in the Statehouse atrium.
Gov. Eric Holcomb speaking at this Next Level Agenda rannouncement.
Photo by Makenna Mays, TheStatehouseFile.com
Much of the governor’s emphasis was on preparing students and adults for the jobs that will keep Indiana growing.
In Indiana alone, 350,000 people don’t have high school diplomas and 712,000 Hoosiers started college but didn’t finish — for a total of more than a million Hoosiers who have left part of their education unfinished.
“Just imagine if we broke the cycle and helped them get on the path of upward mobility,” Holcomb said.
Starting at the lowest level of education, Holcomb wants to provide that path so Hoosiers can get the skills they need so they are ready for work.
“The students that graduate high school have to be ready to either go to college or find meaningful training in the field of their choice,” Holcomb said. He created a new state agency, the Office of Apprenticeship, to begin connecting high school students with job experiences.
Throughout 2018, Holcomb stressed the importance of strengthening K-12 STEM education — science, technology, engineering and math — and create work-based learning to help both high school students and adults, which would take affect in 2019.
By 2021, Holcomb wants every Indiana school to offer at least one computer science course, a goal of his which requires legislative action.
As part of Holcomb’s Next Level Indiana agenda rolled out in January, he implemented nextlevelsjobs.org — a website where employers can post jobs and Hoosiers can search for better jobs. Through Next Level Jobs, Hoosiers can receive the training they need for higher paying jobs at no cost to them.
Since the start of the year, 213,000 Hoosiers have visited the website. Holcomb said it is a start to the change he’d like to see, but he wants more people to fill out the application and actually get a job.
The Indiana Democrats responded to the governor’s plan saying Republicans have talked about workforce development for years, but no progress has been made.
“Just look at the numbers, past efforts haven’t made a dent,” said Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody in a statement. “Hoosiers worked just want a shot at gaining the skills to earn bigger paychecks.”
Zody said rather than increasing jobs, Holcomb’s administration should focus on increasing educational attainment and raising wages.
Holcomb also unveiled other parts of his agenda — which got positive feedback from Statehouse Republicans.
“The governor has put forth a bold agenda, and we look forward to working with him on workforce and other critical issues facing our state and finding the best solutions for all Hoosiers,” House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said in a statement.
Much of the plan, however, included issues presented during the 2017 legislative session, like the opioid crisis, infrastructure work and delivering great government service.
During the 2017 General Assembly, a five-year road plan was passed which would implement a tolling study, create a second rail track along the South Shore Line and a variety of other projects. Holcomb’s 2018 agenda calls for continued support.
The opioid crisis remains another focus as more than 286,000 people have reported using opioids that weren’t prescribed to them. To attack the drug epidemic, Holcomb plans to strengthen enforcement, expand recovery options and make it easier for Hoosiers to locate and access treatment.
The plan also requires physicians to check the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, INSPECT, before issuing prescriptions for opioids.
“We are going to seek every resource that is needed,” Holcomb said. “It’s not just money is needed. It’s how we are organizing and working together and how quickly we can get people into treatment and make sure the treatment is better.”
After his announcement Holcomb was asked about his position on Sunday alcohol sales and guns— two issues that will most likely be raised during the 2018 session. Holcomb didn’t respond directly, saying he will work with the legislature on lawmakers’ proposals.
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.