Training Hoosiers for Hoosier Jobs ; Pence's Vocational Education Plan Would Create Regional Councils

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INDIANAPOLIS - A measure that would kick into gear Gov. Mike Pence's effort to rejuvenate vocational and technical education programs in Indiana high schools won praise from a state Senate panel Wednesday. The bill would launch regional "Indiana Works Councils" that would spend 2013 studying job openings in their areas. Then, they would draft vocational and technical education curricula for high schools to match those needs. Those new programs could be offered starting in the fall of 2014.

It's an attempt to turn high school graduates' degrees into "immediate currency in the workplace," said Pence's senior policy director, Marilee Springer.

The Senate Education and Career Development Committee took an hour of mostly positive testimony from business officials and teachers' unions on Wednesday. The panel - whose chairman, Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, is carrying the bill for Pence - is likely to vote next week.

Senate Bill 465 is a key plank of Pence's first-year legislative agenda. He campaigned on a promise to better match the skills of Indiana's students to the private sector job openings available. He featured that pledge prominently Tuesday night during his State of the State address.

"It can launch entrepreneurs, give kids a reason to finish high school and create a well-qualified work force that will encourage business to build here and grow here," the Republican governor said.

Lobbyists for business and logistics groups lined up to support the bill during Wednesday's hearing.

"We have thousands of employers who simply can't find people with the skills they need to fill the jobs that are out there," said Derek Redelman, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's vice president for education and workforce development. …