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Tripping over the bar, Holcomb sets workforce ‘goals’ low

Holcomb’s ‘vision’ aids just 3.5% of Hoosiers in need of finishing college

INDIANAPOLIS – First-term Governor Eric Holcomb is hoping Hoosiers don’t look too closely at his stated workforce development ‘goals’. That’s because, even if realized, they leave the vast majority of Hoosiers in need of skills behind. They also fail to address the underlying educational issues driving Indiana’s workforce crisis.

During his second State of the State speech, Holcomb vocalized a desire to assist 25,000 Hoosiers who started college but did not graduate. Under closer scrutiny, it fails to assist the other 675,000 Hoosiers who started college but did not finish. That’s leaving 96.5 percent of the Hoosiers with some college, but no degree, without an avenue to gain the skills needed to compete. At 25,000 Hoosiers annually, assuming each graduates in one year, it would take 28 years for all 700,000 Hoosiers to gain needed skills. Holcomb also set a goal of assisting 30,000 Hoosiers without a high school degree to gain one. Unfortunately, that target leaves 445,000 Hoosiers, or 93.7 percent, out in the cold.

Holcomb agreed that “too many Hoosiers” lack the education and skills needed to compete, but he failed to lay out a policy vision to advance common sense education initiatives. Statehouse Republicans invested less per pupil in 2017 than in 2009, adjusted for inflation according to a funding comparison from the Indiana University Center on Evaluation and Education Policy. More than 70 percent of Indiana’s counties have seen zero pre-K investment from the state.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody doubted Holcomb’s low bar is much consolation for the hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers who would not have a shot at earning the skills to compete. Zody questioned whether Holcomb fully grasped the scale and scope of Indiana’s workforce crisis.

“Leaving nearly 97 percent of Hoosiers who need to finish a college degree without an option isn’t a solution, vision, or plan, it’s an empty talking point,” said Zody. “Holcomb is treating this like a slow leak but we’re already underwater. Ignoring the underlying issues, like unequal access to preschool, only exacerbates this issue. Holcomb’s proposals on workforce development might have been fresh in 2005, but they are stale more than a decade later and even Republican allies are doubting the governor’s approach. Just like last decade, workforce development is critical today. If Governor Holcomb continues to push half-baked proposals, it will be next decade, too.”