Andrew Ball and Nick Hoagland

Indiana’s advanced manufacturers are experiencing a talent gap that continues to grow with an estimated 83,000 to 95,000 unfilled positions by the end of 2022. That translates to an enormous statewide financial impact – up to $6.8 billion in net losses for Hoosier advanced manufacturers and foregone tax revenue for the state of Indiana.

As chairs of Conexus Indiana’s Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics councils, we have been working to combat this challenge through Conexus Indiana’s network of industry, education and public-sector partners. Together, we have committed to actionable solutions.

Conexus Indiana convened one of its largest meetings to date this summer to tackle the talent challenge. It was a defining moment with nearly 100 stakeholders in attendance who all agreed to work toward increasing Indiana’s labor participation rate from 62% to 65% by 2025. A 3% participation rate increase means 159,000 more Hoosiers who could be employed in Indiana’s advanced manufacturing and logistics industries.

We began by reviewing the “leaks” in the talent pipeline: an aging workforce that makes up 25% of today’s talent with retirement plans in the next 10 years; a loss of nearly 10,000 women in the advanced manufacturing workforce due to the pandemic; and 35,000 high school students who either don’t complete high school or graduate without a plan. Add to these numbers, 10,000 college freshmen who don’t return and 30% of post-secondary graduates who leave Indiana.

So that leaves us with the question: How do we move the needle for advanced manufacturers and help more Hoosiers find and succeed in rewarding careers in advanced manufacturing and logistics? Part of the answer is found in “Leakproof: Strengthening Indiana’s Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics Workforce Pipeline,” a 24-page white paper that summarizes the challenges and opportunities and, more importantly, outlines an action plan for engaging more young talent in the workforce. It’s not the panacea for all the workforce challenges, but we feel confident it’s a strong start toward some measurable outcomes.

It starts with acknowledging that the advanced manufacturing and logistics industries need to apply their skills managing complex supply chains to manage their talent needs. It’s not entirely up to school systems, universities or the public sector to fix the talent shortage and it’s certainly not something one company can solve alone.

As an industry, we must be intentional and united in this effort, starting with cultivating relationships with K-12 students and teachers. We should interact with students early in their educational journeys to demonstrate why they should choose a career here – in Indiana – and in an industry sector that employs more than 600,000 Hoosiers today.

At the same time, we must connect with our local schools to ensure Career and Technical Education (CTE) aligns with industry needs – especially as companies adopt new technologies such as machine learning and additive manufacturing. Conexus Indiana’s data clearly show that the number of students with CTE concentrations in advanced manufacturing would cover less than 20% of the existing demand for workers.  

Our industry needs to share and amplify best practices. What’s working for one manufacturer could work for another. What’s working at a large, global company could also work for one of its local suppliers. There is nothing gained by keeping talent development successes a secret.

Our white paper outlines specific tactics for growing workforce participation, with near-term action items for Conexus Indiana and industry. To read the full report, click here.

Nick Hoagland and Andrew Ball are chairs of the Conexus Indiana Logistics and Advanced Manufacturing councils, respectively.

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