Skilled laborers in demand

July 26th, 2017

By Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

Steve Braun likes to let numbers do the talking. 

And Indiana's commissioner of workforce development can point to some eye-popping ones. 

Take two high school graduates – one who immediately finds a job as a skilled car mechanic and another who pursues a career as a family-care physician. By the time the doctor pays for college and medical school, it would take 30 years to match the mechanic's career earnings, Braun said.

“We think that people should have that information when making those decisions,” he said during an interview in The Journal Gazette newsroom.

Braun is traveling the state, meeting with employers, media and others to talk about resources offered by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. On Tuesday, he visited Fort Wayne, where stops included Sweetwater Sound, Parkview Health and Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

The state's Department of Workforce Development calculates monthly unemployment rates, which were released Monday. Although the June numbers were impressive, with every Indiana county below 5 percent, Braun wasn't taking a victory lap.

His agency projects job openings for the coming decade, based on annual surveys of more than 10,000 Indiana employers. Using those numbers, the state projects that 283,980 jobs will be created that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor's degree by 2027.

Of those, 18,948 will be in the Fort Wayne Metropolitan Statistical Area, which comprises Allen, Wells and Whitley counties. To fill them, the region needs students to train as electricians, plumbers, mechanics and machine operators.

Braun said employers considering opening operations want to know they'll be able to find skilled workers.

“This isn't just a fill-the-jobs strategy,” he said. “This is an economic development strategy.”