For the first time in the 11 years of the Indiana Chamber’s annual employer survey, more than half of the respondents say they left jobs vacant in the past year because a lack of qualified applicants has made it difficult to fill those unoccupied jobs.
Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar says the number of firms that can’t fill jobs has been on the rise the past five years.
“That’s a trend. And when you add that to their response that says they hope and plan to grow their workforce, you got more conflicts and difficulties,” says Brinegar.
However, he insists the workforce shortage issue is preferable to about a decade ago when unemployment levels were more than 10 percent in Indiana.
“While this is a challenge, and it’s a long-term challenge we think for our state, I see it as superior to where we were in the depths of the Great Recession of 2009 and 2010,” says Brinegar.
The survey also found that about half of the respondents test candidates for opioids and/or illegal drugs. However, only a third of supervisors or managers are trained on how to detect drug misuse or abuse. And if a worker fails a drug test, more than half say they’re more likely to terminate the employee than to refer them to treatment.
Brinegar says a program launched earlier this year aims to address some of the challenges businesses are facing with drug abuse.
“So we think there’s some work we can do there with our Workforce Recovery Initiative, to help employers set up good policies, to do the right kind of training, to be able to provide information to employees about how to not become opioid addicted,” he says.
At the press conference Thursday morning, the Chamber discussed its launch of the Institute for Workforce Excellence.
Indiana Chamber Vice President for Education and Workforce Development Jason Bearce says it’s a kind of middle man for business leaders who may not want to reach out to the government directly.
“We benefit from not having the reputation, whether it’s fair or not, of government and bureaucracy and red tape,” says Bearce. “I think they know that we understand that they’re bottom line people with immediate needs and they need immediate help and that’s where we can provide a lot of value.”
He says the institute will soon roll out a self-assessment that business can complete to help connect them with potential resources.
About 700 responses comprise this year’s survey.