Lawmakers Weigh Need For Apprenticeship Incentives

Lawmakers agree on the need for more technical and vocational education options but disagree on how to implement them.

Monroe County’s representatives to the Indiana General Assembly say they want the 2013 session to focus on education, including spending more money on vocational training.  But lawmakers differed Friday when making suggestions to the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce about how to get buy-in from small business owners.

At a Friday legislative luncheon, the six lawmakers who represent Monroe County suggested more focus on vocational education, including catering more to students with little interest in seeking a four-year college degree.  State Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) proposed a European-style apprenticeship system where students train with businesses starting in high school, but says it will be years before such a program is fully formed and adds it may take incentives to get businesses to participate.

“It’s been my experience that legislators usually are pretty supportive of anything that provides support to businesses, particularly small businesses,” Pierce says.  “So I think if any kid of tax incentive is going to get supported, it would be something that related to job creation.”

But State Rep. Eric Koch (R-Bedford) says he doesn’t think business needs more money to want to take part.  Instead, he says the necessary changes can be made simply by reforming how Indiana educates its youth.

“This isn’t about incentives, this isn’t about tax credits, this isn’t about subsidies.  This is about doing a better job from early childhood on and preparing students for the jobs that are available – and will continue to be available – in our economy,” Koch says.

During Friday’s lunch, Koch cited a statistic suggesting the number of unfilled jobs in Indiana is more than double the number of unemployed Hoosiers – a gap created by a lack of skilled labor to fill the positions.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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