(INDIANAPOLIS) — Two concerning five-year trends in the Indiana Chamber of Commerce annual employer survey demonstrate the workforce challenges that are impacting Hoosier companies. In response, the Indiana Chamber has formed the Institute for Workforce Excellence, which is “dedicated to helping businesses attract, develop and retain” the talent they need.

“It’s impossible to have any business conversation in 2018 without the workforce issue coming up,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “Our goal for the Institute for Workforce Excellence is to drive a highly skilled and productive workforce by bringing together tools and resources for employers to use in building their own talent pipeline.”

The Institute has a number of offerings currently in place. An exclusive partnership with Ivy Tech Community College on the Achieve Your Degree initiative provides a 5% tuition rebate. The Indiana INTERNnet statewide internship matching program can lead to new hires, while Indiana Workforce Recovery guides employers on how they can help workers with opioid or other drug misuse.

Various employee education and training opportunities are also available. A full list of resources is detailed at www.indianachamber.com/workforce. Brinegar emphasizes that additional strategic partnerships will lead to more statewide programs and initiatives in 2019.

Fred Payne, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, applauds the Indiana Chamber’s efforts to work collaboratively with business, education and other key stakeholders to combat the complicated workforce challenges faced by employers.

“Business engagement is a critical factor in addressing workforce needs of our state. The Indiana Chamber’s new Institute is an excellent vehicle to use business leadership, investment and engagement to help move our workforce forward.”

What got the Indiana Chamber’s attention in the 2018 employer survey was, for the first time, more than half of the respondents left jobs unfilled in the past year due to underqualified applicants. The 51% total is the fifth consecutive increase, starting with 39% in 2014.

Also a new high: One-third responded that filling their workforce/talent needs is their biggest challenge. Previously, that number was 20% in 2014 and 29% last year. The 2018 total climbs to 80% when adding in those employers who cite workforce needs as one of their biggest challenges. (In 2014-2017, the percentages ranged from 72% to 79%.)

“The lost business opportunities are real and have a negative impact on these companies, their existing employees and the overall economy,” Brinegar notes.

There were nearly 700 responses in the Indiana Chamber Foundation survey – made possible by the lead sponsorship of Tilson with support from WGU Indiana. The survey was conducted in partnership with Indiana-based Walker. Seventy-five percent of the responses were from for-profit organizations, 58% had fewer than 100 employees and 38% came directly from the owner/CEO/president. Twenty percent described their industry as manufacturing, with 11% in professional, scientific and technical services.

The workforce challenges come at a time when 56% of organizations expect to increase the size of their workforce in the next 12 to 24 months. Sixty-two percent, however, indicate the supply of qualified applicants does not meet demand – an 8% jump in only one year.

A lack of education is not the primary factor in unfilled positions; two of three employers (67%) require less than an associate’s degree for these jobs. Complicating factors for the vacancies: A majority (73%) have not used the state’s WorkOne employment system and there is a lack of awareness of the state’s new Next Level training grants (41% unaware of the Department of Workforce Development programs).

“The state must continue to develop, implement and communicate effective training programs, while employers have the responsibility to investigate all options for increasing the skills of their associates,” Brinegar offers. “But even if our state functions flawlessly in these areas, Indiana has a demographic challenge. We need to attract more workers to our state just as we strive to attract companies and the jobs they bring with them.”

Brent Tilson, founder and CEO of Tilson, says, “Highly effective employees are the cornerstone of any successful business. Today’s lack of workers places company leaders in the position of trying to plug employment holes instead of strategically growing their organization. The impacts will potentially be felt for years to come.”

Additional survey results include:

  • 73% of companies primarily handle workforce training needs internally
  • Only 33% indicate they partner with educational institutions to develop talent
  • Of those that offer tuition reimbursement, 68% report fewer than 5% of employees taking advantage of the opportunity to increase their education
  • 56% would consider partnering with education institutions to develop apprenticeships
  • 83% plan on using paid college interns within the next 12 to 24 months

For the second year, several questions were asked about workplace drug testing policies. About half of respondents say they test applicants for opioids and/or illegal drugs. The most common consequences of a failed drug test by an employee are termination (52%) or referral for treatment (42%). Meanwhile, 34% believe supervisors and managers are trained to detect prescription drug misuse/abuse and 39% would like additional information/resources to educate employees and provide treatment referrals.

Full results of the 11th annual survey are available at www.indianachamber.com/education.

The Indiana Chamber Foundation has been producing practical public policy research to improve Indiana’s economic climate since 1981. Indiana Vision 2025 is the current plan providing a long-term economic development strategy for the state of Indiana.

Tilson, founded in 1995 and headquartered in Greenwood, offers integrated HR services to companies nationwide. Its mission is to enhance the value of businesses by maximizing the effectiveness of their employees.

Additional Supporting Quotes on the Institute for Workforce Excellence:

Danny Lopez, Governor’s Workforce Cabinet chairman:
“Thanks largely to the partnership of Indiana’s employers, our state continues to lead when it comes to creating opportunities for our working families. Wages and educational attainment are rising faster than the national average, consistently low unemployment and a historically tight labor market has meant more options for workers, and Governor Holcomb’s Next Level Jobs initiative has already helped thousands get trained and connected to high-demand careers.

“Still, remaining globally competitive requires us to continually evaluate and strengthen our tools while better communicating those resources already available, and we look forward to working with the Indiana Chamber on employer-driven solutions to this critical issue.”

 Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education:
“Over the years, we have worked closely with the Indiana Chamber to successfully expand internship and work-based learning opportunities for Hoosiers. The Institute for Workforce Excellence is a well-timed initiative positioned to build upon that strong foundation and help more Indiana employers connect with resources to find, develop and keep the talent they need.”

 Paul Perkins, president and CEO of Jeffersonville-based Amatrol, Indiana Chamber’s Workforce Development Policy Committee chairman and Governor’s Workforce Cabinet member:
“The Indiana Chamber, in its role as a convener, is in the optimal position to further assist businesses with their workforce needs and bring clarity to some of the many existing programs. The Institute for Workforce Excellence will provide valuable resources with the promise of new initiatives in the year ahead.”


The Indiana Chamber partners with 25,000 members and investors – representing over four million Hoosiers – to achieve the mission of “cultivating a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity.”