By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS — More than a million people in Indiana alone have unfinished high school and college diplomas, an issue Gov. Eric Holcomb is tackling head on.
“We have 350,000 Hoosiers who are 18-to-64 years old who don’t have a high school diploma,” Holcomb said. “Prime working age Hoosiers who don’t have the skills for not just tomorrow, but today.”
Another 712,000 Hoosiers started college but didn’t finish.
The issue of Hoosiers with an unfinished education led Holcomb to focus on workforce development as he sat down with Tom Bevan, co-founder and publisher of Real Clear Politics. The conversation took place Wednesday at a luncheon at the Columbia Club titled “How Indiana Wins with Software.”
Holcomb again touted the Next Level Jobs Initiative. The state in August launched the Next Level Jobs website to help Hoosiers become qualified for high-demand jobs by receiving more education.
“The state of Indiana will pay for it,” Holcomb said of the program. “We will get you to Ivy Tech or Vincennes and we will help you get a job.”
Since the program rolled out, 213,000 Hoosiers have visited the website. However, there are still 92,000 unfilled jobs.
“I’ve been surprised, positively so, by the number of folks that are going to the website,” Holcomb said. “This is an all hands on deck effort.”
Holcomb said he and the administration continue to work with employers and educators each day to find ways to raise awareness of the unfilled jobs and find ways to fill them.
Developing a skilled and ready workforce is one of Holcomb’s five goals for 2018 that were announced earlier in the month. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and leaders from both parties also share workforce development as one of their main objectives.
Another one of his goals, which was also brought up at Wednesday’s conversation, is attacking the drug epidemic — an issue which Holcomb said also affects the workforce.
“The drug epidemic has morphed into a business crisis, truly,” Holcomb said. “It is a personal individual and family crisis which means it will become a community crisis.”
The issue has arisen because opioids were overprescribed. Holcomb said he would like to see doctors not prescribe more than a week’s worth of opiates at a time. States like Kentucky and New Jersey have already implemented programs limiting the number of opioids that can be prescribed.
“We have to do more for prevention,” Holcomb said. “There are enough pills for every adult in America to have them for a month. There are too many pills out there available.”
To attack the drug epidemic, Holcomb plans to strengthen enforcement, expand recovery options and make it easier for Hoosiers to locate and access treatment.
“All the money in the world will not solve this problem,” Holcomb said. “This has to do with partnerships and collaborations.”
FOOTNOTE: Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.