TERRE HAUTE —
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly said Thursday he hopes workforce education training legislation will move forward in both the House and Senate in an nonelection year.
The America Works Act previously did not get a vote in the U.S. Senate in 2010 and died in the U.S. House in 2011 when Donnelly co-sponsored it as a House member.
“This is not an election year. That really helps people focus on the merits of the bill,” Donnelly, D-Ind., said in a media teleconference call. “I think all political agendas have fallen to the side,” he said, as he is no longer a Senate candidate.
Last month, Donnelly conducted a four-day, 18-community visit around Indiana to gain insight on skilled labor, which is a repeated concern of manufacturers nationwide.
In Vigo County, Donnelly visited ThyssenKrupp Presta Terre Haute LLC, a leading manufacturer of automotive steering systems.
“They are in a place where their business is growing and are continuing to see their sales increase and have new customers coming on board,” Donnelly said. “In Terre Haute, they found it to be a perfect location for them. Terre Haute is somewhat of a sweet spot because of the presence of Rose-Hulman [Institute of Technology] and because of presence of Purdue [University] not too far up the road and a number of other engineering schools in Indiana.
“The skilled people they are looking for have the talent and the schooling there, but they just need more,” Donnelly said. “We have found that is the requirement almost across the board. There is a tremendous hunger for people with STEM skills — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — and also for skills that can do advanced manufacturing.
“Those areas that are going to be a real driving force in Indiana’s economy for years to come,” Donnelly said.
Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Manufacturing Institute conducted its latest skills gap study in July and August 2011.
That survey was consistent with previous skills gap studies, showing 67 percent of respondents reporting a moderate to severe shortages of available, qualified workers; 56 percent anticipate the shortage to grow worse in the next three to five years; and 5 percent of current jobs at respondent manufacturers are unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates.
The study states that underscores a “worsening talent shortage that threatens the future effectiveness of the U.S. manufacturing industry.”
America Works Act, endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers, would create “credentials” for workers showing that they meet industry-recognized skills for almost all entry-level jobs in manufacturing nationwide.
While revenue neutral, it diverts funds from Trade Adjustment Assistance and the Workforce Investment Act along with a federal vocational-technical education act to create new training programs for the industry-recognized skills credentials.
“It gives people a certifiable craft, so that whether you are seeking a job in Indiana or in Ohio or in New Mexico, you have that certified craft skill and immediately employers know what you have,” Donnelly said.
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., will sponsor the bill, while Donnelly will “work to build a bipartisan consensus, which we think we can do,” Donnelly said.
“This is something that will make our state stronger and continue our ability to employ more people,” Donnelly said.
He said Ivy Tech Community College across Indiana already has programs that match skills sets to each area of the state, such as in Warsaw, where a skill set is designed for medical device manufacturing; in South Bend, programs target machine tool and dye.
“We are trying to make sure that Indiana has a compelling case to any employer that the best skills are in our state, the best employment is in our state, the best education is in our state and we are a place, that when you come, we will the team ready to go for you,” Donnelly said.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.