Tech has changed workforce needs, and Indiana must adapt


Jeffersonville News and Tribune

In report after report, researchers have reached the same conclusion: Digital technology will soon dominate the market, and Indiana’s workforce is ill-prepared for the seismic shift.

The latest reminder of this troubling forecast came from the state’s own study, released in November by the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet. That panel’s findings reinforce those detailed in similar reports, including one produced by the Brookings Institution.

The bottom line is that many employers already demand distinguished digital skills from their workers, and that trend will only grow stronger. The state report suggests factors, including the pandemic and a tight labor market, have pushed many employers to speed up automation.

Advanced technology requires skilled workers, and researchers worry that Indiana could be left in the “digital dust” without a major overhaul of educational priorities and training.

To meet the demand, high schools and colleges should prioritize instruction in fields such as computer science, math, technology and engineering, researchers propose.

Similar to how the legislature addressed shortfalls in nursing during its last session, lawmakers must find ways to incentivize Hoosier high schools and colleges to offer more dual credits and enhanced training for in-demand occupations. With Indiana being fortunate enough to have budget surpluses, investing more in training the workforce would be a wise move.

Employers should also be a part of the process. By partnering with colleges, high schools and workforce training organizations, employers can help fund the instruction of the employees they need to sustain their businesses.

Workers and students must also recognize the shift in the landscape. It behooves a worker to attain high-skilled accreditation and training for technology-related jobs. Those who obtain such skills will be attractive to employers and will earn more money.

And while the legislature should act to foster tech-centric training and digital proficiency, there are already programs available for Hoosiers. Many of them are free. Workforce organizations across the state offer coding programs, teaching students front-end web development in a matter of weeks.

We also must eliminate the stigma between technical and skills training and academics. They are both necessary for a viable workforce.

STEM and digital learning doesn’t necessarily boost critical thinking, but proficiency in reading, writing and arithmetic may not be the most crucial need for future workers.

We need our educators and workforce developers to meet in the middle to promote a wide scope of training and instruction.

Indiana has positioned itself as a manufacturing hub, but to maintain that status, decision-makers, workers and students must accept that tech skills are vital.

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