The Indiana Chamber of Commerce on Monday released its list of priorities for the upcoming legislative session, and addressing the state’s workforce challenges appears to be paramount. The Indiana General Assembly will convene in January for its biennial budget writing session. The chamber’s 2023 policy agenda includes several efforts to help attract and retain talent.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Indiana Chamber Vice President of Education and Workforce Jason Bearce said the chamber hopes the legislature focuses on talent pool opportunities and challenges as Indiana battles in the national and global economy.
“There are a number of rankings Indiana looks really great in terms of business climate, whether it be, , regulatory environment, tax climate, cost of doing business,” said Bearce. “Where we continue, though, to fall short is in the education and skill level of our workforce.”
LISTEN: Bearce further explains the root cause of Indiana’s workforce woes.
Bearce says educational attainment and workforce skill level are putting Indiana at an increasingly competitive disadvantage. A report issued earlier this year by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education revealed just 53% of Hoosier high school students are pursuing a higher education.
“When companies are looking to relocate or expand other states, they’re increasingly looking at what’s the quality of the talent there? And what’s the credentials that those individuals hold,” said Bearce.
The chamber says Indiana needs to tackle barriers to prosperity and invest in projects that will attract and retain workers. But the state must also do more to grow its own talent base.
The chamber says it’s already working to do that by increased career readiness and removing roadblocks to education attainment. He says the pandemic just exacerbated problems that are deeply rooted.
“Only about 30% of Hoosier students in K-12 pass both sections English and math of the iLearn exam. We’re not going to get their education attainment goals if we can’t even get to that basic foundation of academic skills,” Bearce said.
Another priority issue for the chamber is healthcare. The state routinely ranks poorly in a variety of metrics when it comes to health care access, quality and determinants, such as smoking and obesity.
The Indiana Chamber is pushing for the legislature to look at state laws and regulations commonly called scope of practice laws that define what services health care professionals may or may not provide.
“In some cases, the current scope of practice laws may restrict access to care by contributing to shortages of clinicians, which in turn may exacerbate market conditions and ultimately contribute to higher health care costs,” said Mike Ripley, Indiana Chamber vice president of health care policy and employment law.
Bearce says the chamber will support an increased appropriation for the Indiana Destination Development Corp., the quasi-state agency that supports both workforce attraction and tourism. Last month. IDDC Chief Executive Officer Elaine Bedel told Inside INdiana Business her $4.5 million budget is a fraction of what neighboring states spend.
She says, for example, Michigan spends $40 million annually in marketing and Illinois spends $90 million to attract visitors. “We are not in an opportunity to even compete with them,” said Bedel.
The Indiana Chamber recognizes that as major obstacle.
“Increasingly, we’re competing not just for companies, but for people. Certainly, other states are not stopping telling their stories. So, it behooves us to be much more aggressive about how we shape our own story,” said Bearce.
The list of Indiana Chamber top legislative priorities and objectives for the upcoming session:
- Support the creation of a state workforce retention/talent matching fund
- Support establishing an infrastructure matching fund
- Support a notably increased appropriation for the Indiana Destination Development Corporation
- Support measures to promote entrepreneurship in Indiana
- Support efforts to enhance early childcare access and quality
- Support targeted financial incentives that promote graduate retention and employer investment in work-based learning, employee training that results in industry-recognized credentials and overcome systemic workforce participation barriers (i.e., childcare, housing and transportation)
- Support strengthening college and career readiness expectations/opportunities for Indiana students
- Support development of a statewide energy plan
- Support expanding the scope of practice for low-level providers that would increase access to care
- Oppose shifting local government tax burdens disproportionately from residential property to other property classes
- Support measures to increase affordable housing in the state
- Support a state and local tax deduction cap workaround to put Indiana on par with surrounding states
- Support consumer data protection
Click here to get details of the chamber’s legislative priority list.