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Getting the right workers for open jobs part of state’s plan

Updated: February 25, 2013 9:33AM



The General Assembly has focused on connecting workers to higher paying jobs, and one effort includes House Bill 1002, the Indiana Career Council.

That bill, which passed the House Feb. 12 with a unanimous vote would bring together 16 leaders throughout state government, higher education and business to develop a plan to match workers with training programs and potential jobs.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, teamed up to promote the bipartisan effort.

While introducing the concept, Bosma referenced a conversation he had with executives from ArcelorMittal, who said they have a number of jobs they can’t fill because the applicants aren’t qualified.

Gary Norgren, who leads ArcelorMittal workforce development initiatives, said the problem of finding qualified workers is only going to get worse. Norgren said the average age of the workforce is a little over 50, and many will be preparing for retirement.

“We’re going to have a huge turnover in our employees for both maintenance and operations,” Norgren said.

The entry level jobs in highest demand, he said, are mechanical and electrical technicians. Those starting positions can earn more than $60,000 a year plus benefits.

“Those candidates that take a mechanical or electrical position need a little more aptitude than our operators,” he explained.

That aptitude requires a job seeker to pass a test to determine their capabilities in either mechanics or electrical systems.

“You don’t have to go through a program,” Norgren said, “you could come from the military, have previous work experience or even a four-year degree. But our standards are a testing for an entry level examination.”

In order to provide the needed workforce, Norgren said the company partnered with United Steelworkers on Steelworkers for the Future in 2008. The program helps train future steelworkers. The program partners with local community colleges like Ivy Tech and Purdue North Central to provide an associate’s degree while offering on-site training and pay.

At the same time, Norgren said, a number of elementary and high schools are receiving support to increase interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics with resources and curriculum support.

“It’s the right approach,” he said, “We’re selling manufacturing as a whole to the students. We encourage the two and a half years in school, get the degree they need. If they choose to go somewhere else, that’s fine, but they know the skills to pass our entrance exams.”

Even with these efforts, Norgren said there’s need for more to fill positions left vacant.

“That pipeline to a career needs to be bolstered,” he said.



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