What's Next For Indiana's Workforce?

By Natalie Heustis, Manager of Employer Initiatives at Skillful Indiana

Like most states in this tight labor market, Indiana is grappling with how to find talent for their workforce. One of the biggest challenges we face when trying to fill our skills gap is a misalignment of what the opportunity is and what job seekers have to offer. Employers continue to say that people don’t have the skills they need for their unfilled jobs, but there’s a lack of clarity on what skills those roles actually entail.

We’ve all heard that Indiana will need to fill one million jobs over the next decade, but our current hiring practices are hindering our ability to do get this done. For too long we’ve been using proxies for skills, such as degrees, past job titles, and background to eliminate talent and this has contributed to our shrinking talent pool today.

Currently, Indiana’s labor force participation rate is 64.4% which means there are so many individuals whose talent is not being utilized.  Every time we ask for a bachelor’s degree, we eliminate almost three fourths of our workforce.

By excluding 74.4% of Hoosiers who have skills, but don’t have a bachelor’s degree, we are narrowing our candidate pool and depriving skilled people of opportunity.

That’s why at Skillful we advocate for skills-based hiring practices. This approach challenges employers to look at what skills their unfilled roles actually require and help them take a second look at skilled talent they might’ve eliminated when hiring with a traditional lens. Skills-based practices can help employers in Indiana attract and retain skilled talent. That’s why I was pleased to find out that there is a desire from employers to change their hiring practices!

Recently, Skillful partnered with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce on their annual statewide employer survey. When we asked employers if they had considered changing their recruitment, hiring, and retention practices to test potential employees for their skills and competencies rather than by their education level or credentials held:

  • 29.8% of employers said they currently test potential employees based on their skills.
  • 14.1% of employers said that they have considered changing their hiring practices and are interested in learning about what steps they need to do this.
  • 13.3% said that even though they had not considered changing their hiring practices before, they are interested in learning what steps they need to do this.

These findings validate the work we’ve been doing to raise the awareness and implementation of skills-based practices across the state. Since the launch of our first Skillful Talent Series Train-the-Trainer Boot Camp last spring, we have held three more boot camps with six workforce development regions present and have trained over 40  trainers from eleven unique organizations across the state on the Skillful Talent Series content to work with employers on adopting skills-based talent management practices.

The response that we’ve received from the bootcamps has been very encouraging. We’ve been told by the trainers that they’re very excited about this content, that they see it as a wonderful tool for them to use with employers, and that it’s a great resource for them to enhance what their organizations are already doing. I’m excited to continue sharing our Skillful content to all who seek a better way to hire and retain quality talent.

Indiana has such a wealth and opportunity for collaboration and partnerships. We are very grateful for the key relationships we’ve formed in this past year including the  Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Indiana Economic Development Corporation, and Indiana Small Business Development Center. Through our partnership with intermediaries that already work with employers, we’ve been able to connect and expand our reach across the State of Indiana.

Talent is out there! But we need to maximize both the talent we already have in our companies and those that could be a part of our companies. In 2019, we were able to gather a lot of enthusiasm and interest from employers and our workforce partners on skills-based practices. As we begin the new year, we look forward to continue building on this momentum and continue connecting Indiana employers with the talent they need and Hoosiers with the opportunities that are available.