(INDIANAPOLIS) — More than half of respondents to a recent survey expect their workforces to grow in the next two years, but more of those employers continue to leave jobs unfilled and rank meeting talent needs as among their biggest challenges.

There were 671 respondents to the ninth annual employer survey, conducted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and its foundation. WGU Indiana sponsored the survey, sent to Indiana Chamber members and customers. Participating companies included 58% with fewer than 100 employees and 27% with between 100 and 500 employees. Leading industries represented were manufacturing (21%) and health care/social assistance (11%).

While there were not dramatic changes from workforce results in recent years, several downward trends continued.

Companies that left Indiana jobs unfilled in 2015 due to under-qualified applicants increased to 45% – compared to 43% and 39%, respectively, for the prior two years.

In addition, 27% of respondents identified filling their workforce and meeting talent needs as ­­their biggest challenge. Another 49% categorized the talent needs as “challenging but not their biggest challenge.” The 76% total exceeds the numbers for 2015 (74%; 24% biggest challenge) and 2014 (72%; 20% biggest challenge).

This comes despite the percentage of respondents requiring an industry certification or occupational license for unfilled jobs declining from 27% in the 2015 survey to 16% in 2016. At the same time, the minimum requirement of a high school diploma increased from 34% to 39%.

On the other end of the education spectrum, more employers are also raising the bar. Employers requiring a bachelor degree as the minimum level for the unfilled jobs increased from 23% a year ago to more than 28% in 2016. This reaffirms the importance of moving the current workforce toward degree completion.

“It’s clear once again that the Outstanding Talent driver of the Indiana Vision 2025 plan remains critical,” offers Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “The economic consequences of the skills mismatch continue to impact companies, workers and their families. We must all expand our efforts to resolve this threat to our state’s economic future.”

More than half (52%) of survey respondents indicated they do not offer tuition reimbursement. Of those providing the tuition assistance, only 11% of companies see at least 10% of their employees taking advantage of the benefit. This serves as a potential additional detriment to reaching the Outstanding Talent goals, particularly in elevating the skills of incumbent workers. Recent Cigna Corporation research shows a $1.29 return generated for each $1 investment in tuition reimbursement.

Additional results include:


· Personal qualities (work ethic, responsibility, initiative) and critical thinking skills were cited as most challenging to find among job applicants and new hires at 63% and 54%, respectively
· More than half (54%) of companies expect to grow their workforce in the next 12 to 24 months. Forty-one percent anticipate no change, with 4% seeing a decrease
· Pending retirements continue to be a factor as 57% say up to 5% of their employees will be eligible to retire within the next five years (27% place the percentage of eligible retirees as high as 10%)

View the survey results at www.indianachamber.com/education.

The Indiana Chamber and its foundation, focused on providing research and solutions to enhance Indiana’s economic future, have resources to assist employers, job seekers and students.

IndianaSkills.com provides job supply and demand information both statewide and regionally. It utilizes current labor market data to help companies, prospective workers and students understand Indiana’s workforce landscape. Salary data, required skills and certifications, and creation of effective job descriptions are among the featured tools.

Indiana INTERNnet has been connecting students and employers for internship opportunities for 15 years. The easy-to-use web site, informative Intern Today, Employee Tomorrow guide and regional partnerships are supplemented by additional outreach programs.

The Indiana Vision 2025 plan measures Indiana’s progress compared to other states on 36 goals in the four driver areas of Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure, and Dynamic and Creative Culture.

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The Indiana Chamber partners with 24,000 members and investors – representing over four million Hoosiers – to achieve the mission of “cultivating a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity.”

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