A Look Ahead – Indiana’s Going to Need More Workers

A Look Ahead – Indiana’s Going to Need More Workers

By Nick Dmitrovich

If there was one unified and overarching theme shared among the various industry experts present at the NWIBRT Business and Economic Outlook, it was that labor demands are among the most urgent concerns for many different types of Indiana firms. Presenters from the healthcare, manufacturing, economic policy, steel, and education industries each commented that their respective fields are all going to require a major influx of new blood in order to maintain desired levels of growth over the next decade, and some even sooner.

“The number one concern in our industry is employment,” said Wendell Carter, vice president and general manager at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor. “Right now, at the Indiana Harbor, about half of my staff is already eligible for retirement. We expect many of them will retire over the next ten years.”

“Our new hires cannot enter right off the street with just a high school diploma. They must come in ready-made,” he added. Carter also mentioned that ArcelorMittal is planning to hire more than 350 people in Northwest Indiana over the next year or so, and the company has to find “talented, quality applicants.”

In the healthcare industry, Zach Cattell, president of the Indiana Health Care Association, shared similar concerns about workforce demand. He said there is a 13.2% projected growth rate expected in the number of healthcare jobs over the next five years in central Indiana alone.

Similar concerns were true for the manufacturing industry. Brian Burton, executive director of the Indiana Manufacturers Association said, “Workforce concerns are the number one thing that we hear about from IMA’s members and the companies we work with. About 25% of the workforce will be gone in the next 5 years from retirement. It is a huge bubble that is coming along.”

Many of the attendees, who were predominantly business leaders, wanted to learn more about what Indiana institutions are doing to develop and train more workers and what the business community could be doing to help support those efforts.

Dr. Sue Ellspermann, President of Ivy Tech Community College, spoke about how her school is working to align its programs with workforce and community needs. A good example of this would be the Achieve Your Degree program, which establishes educational partnerships with employers for a support-structured educational pathway for employees – essentially working arm-in-arm with HR departments to support employee education.

“We need to have you (businesses) at our side helping to figure out how to address your specific workforce needs,” she said. “We need your input.”

Blair Milo, Indiana’s new Secretary of Career Connections and Talent, commented on several of the new initiatives that the governor’s office has implemented this year to generate new workers (See our cover story in this issue for much more detail on those plans), and other steps the state is taking to retain talent here in Indiana.

“We are starting to grow the narrative about innovative things happening in our communities every day, to help retain talent here in Indiana,” Milo said.

Regional infrastructure plans shared by the Regional Development Authority (RDA) and Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Committee (NIRPC) tied into Milo’s comments about retention well, in that officials are looking to keep workers in the state through improvements to quality of place.

Dr. Micah Pollak, assistant professor of economics with IUN, echoed these sentiments during his economic forecast. He said, “We need to enhance quality of place, provide more transit options like the South Shore line expansion projects, make it easier for workers to move here before the jobs and improve our human capital.”

All in all, the collaborative efforts of those involved in the event will provide a framework toward a solution moving forward. For more information about NWIBRT and its other events, please visit NWIBRT.org.