TRI-STATE (WFIE) - You might have noticed longer wait times lately for getting your car fixed, your sidewalk paved, or your home windows repaired.
Skilled workers are in short supply, and they’re getting harder to find. It’s a national trend that’s hitting the Tri-State particularly hard, because a large part of the area’s economy is powered by sectors like manufacturing and construction.
Not only is the demand high, but keeping young skilled workers to live and work here is a challenge on its own.
That’s exactly what Jim Heck will tell you in his office off Main Street in downtown Evansville. Heck is the Executive Director for Grow Southwest Indiana Workforce, and he’s been busy working with youth organizations across the region, hoping to create a pipeline for young skilled workers.
“We’ve got to not only get people here," he paused, “but we’ve got to keep people here once they get here. Because, that’s another thing we hear from companies," Heck said, "they will recruit engineers but the culture doesn’t sit with them and they only stay here two years and then leave.”
Heck explained how his phones ring off the hook from local companies in desperate need of trade workers.
“Berry Global needs people to come to work for them," Heck started naming off examples. "They had told us that they are really facing the challenge. Alcoa, who just restarted their pipelines, they’re looking for workers now and those are a lot harder to come by now than they used to be. Toyota is desperate for workers to work on the line, and maintenance workers...workers that can repair the machines that they rely on every day.”
Filling the pool of skilled workers starts with a shift in dialogue, breaking down the misconception that the best path to a high-paying job is through a four-year degree, according to Heck. He said it’s going to take time. But, the number one strategy companies and public schools are aiming for is to get young kids interested in working with their hands.
The Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation is doing it. Henderson County Schools are, too.
Ivy Tech recently launched a new opt-in program with the EVSC to make it easier for high school students to earn credit.
“The options are limitless," Ivy Tech Chancellor Jonathan Weinzapfel said. “How do we make sure that we are providing direction to young people so that they can get the skills they need to stay here in this community get a good paying job,” he questioned.
Educators and companies are hoping the pipelines their creating together provide solutions.