Secretary for Career Connections and Talent Outlines Efforts to Address Workforce Needs

How to fill the thousands of job vacancies that currently exist in Indiana while preparing Hoosiers for the jobs of tomorrow is the goal of Indiana’s secretary for career connections and talent. Secretary Blair Milo discussed some of her department’s objectives during a visit to Knox Wednesday. “When we think about career connections, I look at that as some of the challenge in the current landscape around us,” she explained. “We see across the State of Indiana that there are around 85,000 or so postings of jobs, where employers are seeking people to be able to fill those positions.”

She highlighted figures from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation showing significant job growth last year. “We had a record year for the number of new job commitments that were created of either new businesses coming to Indiana or growth in our existing businesses here of over 30,000 new job positions that are coming forward,” Milo said, “with increasingly higher average wages of $27.20 an hour, an investment of over $7 billion. So all very exciting to see those kinds of numbers.” And she says the state appears to be on track to surpass those numbers this year.

She adds the talent portion of her job means looking beyond today’s demands and giving students the skills they need for the workforce of the future. The challenge is that the jobs they’ll end up getting may not even exist yet. “So how do we then ensure that that experience all along the way is going to develop the kinds of skills that, regardless of where the technology may take us or where a global marketplace or some of the demographic trends may influence it, that they are connected up with some of the critical thinking skills, problem-solving, communication, emotional intelligence-type things, that can’t be replicated by a machine or be influenced by any of these other factors?” Milo asked.

While more and more work is being done by machines, Milo stresses that more jobs are coming for humans, as well, “But they’re just different than how we’ve understood them previously. So that, then, changes our insight into how do we ensure that not only the students who are coming into the workforce are aware of what these even are, but then for the adults who are in the workforce already.”

Milo said that a good way to address those issues is through work-based learning, including those opportunities that let people earn a paycheck while learning new skills. She also pointed to the state’s new Graduation Pathways. They require high school students to complete a project-, service-, or work-based learning experience, along with at least one “postsecondary-ready” competency, such as a dual credit course, industry certification, or passing the SAT or ACT.

Milo noted that an estimated 60 percent of jobs will require some type of post-secondary credential by 2025.