$7 million poured into high-tech jobs, education effort in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- In the song, “Your Hometown,” Bruce Springsteen quotes a plant boss who tells his workers, “These jobs are going, boys, and they ain’t comin’ back.”

Employees at Carrier and Rexnord know what it’s like to see their heavy manufacturing jobs literally head south and wonder if there’s still a place in Indiana for their experience and skill sets.

Ascend Indiana, in conjunction with the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, is on the receiving end of $7 million, provided by Lilly Endowment and other donors, to entice advanced industries to Indiana and work with schools, colleges and universities to make sure the potential employees have the skills and education to fill those positions the companies bring.

“Over sixty percent of the new jobs that are going to be created in 2020 and beyond are going to require some form of post-secondary education, some kind of certification or training,” said Lilly Foundation President Rob Smith. “Right now in our adult workforce its about 42%.”

Smith said Indiana’s economy could potentially grow by 215,000 high-tech jobs in the years to come if the Hoosier workforce is up to the task.

“We’ve got to make sure that young people graduate from high school fully prepared and motivated to pursue some sort of post-secondary training or education,” said Smith. “The second part of this is to create opportunities for adults already in the workforce to up their skills so they can be competitive for these new good jobs that will be created.”

Indiana stands 38th in the nation in per capita income and 70% of all incoming students in the Ivy Tech system need some sort of remedial education.

“It’s not just yesterday’s jobs. Its tomorrow’s jobs and education’s really gotta line up to help our students see what those jobs look like and the kind of skill sets that are required for those jobs,” said Ivy Tech Chancellor Kathleen Lee. “The community health story is a good one. They’re looking for nurses, and so they’ve been working with us as part of that pilot to train nurses faster and to get them through the process.”

Lee admits only eight percent of Ivy Tech’s students finish their two-year degrees on time and one out of five students reaches their goals in four to six years.

“Companies in the past have looked one to three years out in strategic planning,” said Tim Lutes, an ex-marine who enrolled in Ivy Tech to study supply chain logistics and management, “and now companies entering the market, or have been in the market like amazon, their strategic planning is ten to twenty years out and that’s kind of where everybody needs to be right now to meet with this future demand or this talent void is going to be huge.”

Two hundred state and local business, government and education leaders attended the Ascend Indiana announcement at the Skyline Club atop the One America Square building where the theme was anticipating and adapting to the changing workplace.

“I think out maybe ten years on autonomous vehicles and start to think about all the jobs that are just disrupted in that one simple area so cab drivers, Uber drivers, bus drivers, truckers, what’s going to happen to those kind of roles?” asked Mark Hill of Collina Ventures.

Advanced industries account for 96,000 in Indianapolis.