INDIANAPOLIS — While nearly half of employers are still leaving jobs unfilled, dramatically fewer are listing workforce/talent needs as among their biggest challenges. Instead, they are adapting to the ongoing shortage of qualified applicants in several different ways.

The findings are part of the 12th annual employer workforce survey from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and its Institute for Workforce Excellence. There were 1,005 responses from 89 of Indiana’s 92 counties during the Aug. 5-27 survey period. Skillful Indiana was the lead partner, with additional support from Amatrol and WGU Indiana.

One distinct trend of the last five years remained largely intact. Forty-nine percent of respondents left jobs unfilled in the past year due to underqualified applicants; that compared to 51 percent a year ago and 47 percent in 2017.

Those citing filling workforce/talent needs as their biggest challenge, however, decreased dramatically – from 33 percent a year ago to 12 percent in 2019. Add in those who cite talent as one of their biggest challenges and the number declined from 80 percent to 45 percent. These percentages had been increasing each year since 2014.

“A slowing national economy, tariffs and ongoing trade disputes are some of the potential concerns for employers today compared to recent years,” said Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “But, given the survey responses, another strategy seems to be accepting that the talent shortage is not going to change anytime soon and simply finding alternative methods for dealing with it.”

Employers are assigning more responsibilities internally (25 percent in 2019; 18 percent in 2017) and hiring underqualified applicants (23 percent in 2019 compared to 11 percent two years earlier). In addition, 71 percent confirm they are willing to hire an individual with less education/skills than desired and allow them to work while completing on-the-job training.

The survey found less optimism among employers in the growth of their own organization, with 45 percent expecting to increase the size of the workforce in the next one to two years. That is a significant decline from the 56 percent who anticipated growth in 2018 and the 53 percent of a year earlier.

The number of employers using internal staff as the largest trainer of current workers decreased from 67 percent in 2018 to 55 percent this time. But there remain many additional opportunities not being taken advantage of to team with K-12 schools, colleges, workforce training programs and other partners:

n 58 percent do not work with others to develop work-based learning programs

n 54 percent fail to partner on support of work-based learning programs

n 50 percent do not team with K-12 schools for career awareness/exploration activities

n 40 percent use none of these talent development strategies – student site visits, job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships

Also adding to the benefits of working with others in meeting the skills shortage: 66 percent of organizations planning to add high-wage jobs (paying more than $50,000 a year) are already partnering to develop talent, and 65 percent that have more qualified applicants than they need are participating in the state’s Next Level Jobs training programs.

“It’s essential that companies look to take advantage of some of the many workforce resources that are available,” Brinegar said. “A ‘going it alone’ strategy typically will not lead to the desired outcomes.”

Additional survey results:

n Employers cite bigger challenges with attracting (53 percent) employees than developing or retaining them (30 percent each)

n Forty-four percent say they are measuring skills rather than education level/credentials in recruitment and retention processes with another 13 percent interested in learning more

n Forty-five percent of employers believe applicants are not attracted to the community where their companies and jobs are located

n Only 20 percent note federal or state regulatory/state burdens as impeding company growth in the past two years

n With the 2018 introduction of Indiana Workforce Recovery and many other education efforts, employers terminating employees as the result of a first failed drug test declined from 52 percent in 2018 to 30 percent

“Although 45 percent of employers are expecting their workforce to increase, just as many cannot find qualified applicants and are leaving jobs unfilled,” said Bill Turner, executive director of Skillful Indiana. “It is exciting to see that 71 percent of employers are willing to upskill less-experienced candidates, and 30 percent are already hiring based on skills and competencies. This is a strong sign of businesses investing wisely in their employees and providing opportunities to more workers.”

Full survey results are available at www.indianachamber.com/education.

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