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March 10, 2013

KEN BRENGLE: Terre Haute Chamber values strategic thinking, businesses’ needs

TERRE HAUTE — It is hard to believe that March is already here. We have had another successful event with over 210 attendees to hear Gov. Mike Pence lay out his priorities for Indiana.

Our first 2013 Business After Hours is coming up on March 21 and should be a great event. The March Madness Business After Hours will be hosted by Ballyhoo’s Tavern 900 Chestnut St. Again, the turnouts and involvement of our members signal strong support for our 2013 program.

Additionally, the involvement, participation, and response provide backing for two more of our values:

~ We value strategic thinking that includes an awareness and appreciation of the history of our community. We are committed to sustainable initiatives that develop a vibrant business community and a qualified workforce.

~ We value representing the needs of businesses by creating and supporting growth opportunities, education and training, providing regular communication, serving as advocates and providing opportunities for social interaction.

These two values help drive one of our new strategic initiatives:

Workforce Development — We wish to break the cycle of poverty by elevating the skills of people in the local community to enter the workforce. We wish to encourage students to complete high school, engage in K-12 course work preparatory for industrial entry level positions, and to provide education and business role models to elementary and junior high students.

Last week I hope you read the Tribune-Star’s three-part series on the “skills gap” that we need to close to provide our industries with the needed employees. We have heard from our membership that they must interview 3 to 4 times the number of individuals needed to fill just one position. A number of businesses indicated that some prospective employees were concerned about going off of unemployment or public assistance. Other employers talked of individuals starting a job but leaving the workplace within a few hours to a couple of days because the work was too hard and they could “live off” the unemployment payments or public assistance.

Please understand, the Terre Haute business community has a track record of supporting and funding many needed social service activities. The Chamber strongly believes in offering a hand up, not just a hand out. That is why in our 2013 Public Policy Agenda (to be discussed in next month’s column) we added a guiding principle — We believe in … A Community Culture based on individual responsibility and accountability.

You may ask “How does that statement fit with our workforce development efforts?” Because we have jobs available in manufacturing that can provide a good pay that leads to a higher standard and quality of life. We want to break the cycle of poverty by providing our young adults and those in the K-12 system who are not currently thinking of going on to college, a light at the end of the tunnel.

We need parents to understand that employment in businesses, such as “manufacturing,” is a viable and productive option for their children. Studies have shown that only about 25 percent of all graduating seniors (not counting those who drop out prior to getting their high school diploma) ever complete their bachelor’s degree.

More and more businesses, including manufacturing, need employees with associate degree college work to be competitive globally. Tuition assistance is frequently a benefit that not only helps the business, but also the employee. Exciting things often happen when a person with no interest in college connects with college in a work setting.

The Chamber wants to work with the Vigo County School Corp. to expand the already excellent Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. We want to insure there is a seamless delivery of training and education between K-12 and the community colleges. We are also working to identify recruitment programs that help fill current openings by marketing those openings nationwide.

This effort is in its infancy. Dialogue is needed. We need to make this a long term, sustainable program of the Terre Haute Chamber. However, as they say, the 1,000 mile journey begins with the first step.

If you would like more information concerning our workforce development activities please feel free to contact me at the Chamber office at 812-232-2391 or email us at info@terrehaute

chamber.com.

 

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