Editorial: New staffing ideas could give Indiana a boost

Business Journal of Indianapolis

Call us jaded. We’ve received dozens of recommendations over the years to improve the state’s workforce readiness and prepare Indiana for the next generation of jobs. Sometimes they come from new governors, or at the whim of legislators, or because of a perceived change in the economy or Indiana’s standing among other states.

And over the years there have been many great ideas – some in practice, some still on the shelf.

But layers of bureaucracy—new agencies, commissions, boards at the state and local levels—have been included in almost every staffing plan for the last several decades.

It is all the more gratifying that a new set of 30 recommendations from the governor’s cabinet is largely unbureaucratic.

Instead, the recommendations are practical, actionable, and refreshingly actionable.

They are divided into three areas: supporting employers in finding skilled workers, breaking down barriers for employees and preparing future skilled workers. They were developed by a panel appointed by Governor Eric Holcomb, which includes business leaders, educators, government officials and social service leaders.

Ryan Kitchell, a former hospital chief and former director of the state Office of Management and Budget, chaired the panel and worked with the Cabinet’s new executive director, Whitney Ertel, on the recommendations. Both joined the cabinet last spring, just in time to help Indiana reconsider its post-pandemic workforce.

The governor, Ertel said, is seeking “new energy, a renewed focus, and a very, very accelerated approach” to bolster the state’s readiness to work. And she said the recommendations have a strong focus on improving preparation for STEM jobs and helping every worker progress to the next level of education or advancement, regardless of where they start.

“This is about investing in the workforce like we invest in other parts of the economy, like infrastructure,” Kitchell said.

To that end, we love the recommendations, which focus on helping workers and employers navigate the complex systems of accessing training programs, educational opportunities, and more. Too often, these efforts have been focused more on the unemployed or companies negotiating incentive packages and less on salaried workers wanting to do better and existing employers looking to expand.

The panel’s recommendations call for an Indiana Talent Agency — which is less of a headhunter and more of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. but would help develop recruitment and training strategies for all Indiana businesses.

We also appreciate the efforts to give students more access to employment experts throughout their school years, rather than putting the entire burden of career planning on the guidance counselor, and rethinking the credentials that go into a high school degree—not for them to make them stricter but to make them more flexible.

There are more recommendations worth pursuing (and some we may not entirely agree with). We hope that the Office of the Governor and the legislature (and in one case, Congress) will take them seriously and act accordingly.