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Statewide Survey Shows More Companies Using Work-Based Learning

Jeremey Rorie shows Penn High School students what he does for work at B&B Molders in Mishawaka.

Jeremey Rorie shows Penn High School students what he does for work at B&B Molders in Mishawaka. (Justin Hicks/IPB News)

Over the past year there’s been a sizable increase in Indiana companies offering work based learning opportunities for high school and college students according to responses from almost 1,000 employers in an annual statewide survey.

Responses from the Indiana’s Chamber Foundation annual Employer Workforce Survey suggest there’s an increase in employers thinking about how to train workers. There were noticeable increases in the percentage of worksites offering internships, site visits, and apprenticeships.

Jason Bearce, Indiana Chamber of Commerce vice president of education and workforce development, told state education leaders it’s really encouraging to see continued growth in talent development despite the pandemic.

“Last year there was a fairly significant number that weren’t doing anything on that continuum,” Bearce said. “Now [there’s a] recognition of the need for employers to be more proactive and intentional in their talent development strategy.”

But the percentage of employers who said filling workforce gaps was their biggest problem fell sharply for the second year in a row. That’s as tariffs and a global pandemic have disrupted the economy over the past two years.

The survey also measured some expected changes in the workforce due to the pandemic. While just more than 40 percent of companies said they switched to remote work, 24 percent said they reduced hours or laid off workers. In contrast, 15 percent reported hiring more workers, suggesting that the pandemic might have actually spurred growth in some sectors.

The survey also showed that 60 percent of employers who responded want Indiana to develop a work share program. The program, encouraged by the federal government and already implemented in 27 other states, would allow companies to reduce employee hours – rather than furlough workers – when business lags. Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment insurance compensates the worker for the missed hours, based on a percentage of lost work and income.

"Work share is something the chamber that the chamber has been advocating for, for the past couple of years, with not as much success as we'd like," Bearce said. "We think the time has come for that issue."

He added that the Indiana Chamber of Commerce is encouraging state lawmakers to pass a bill that would create a work share program in the upcoming legislative season.

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.

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