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SENATOR LONGFor 50 years now, Ivy Tech Community College has filled an absolutely vital role in our state. The institution provides high-skill jobs training to Hoosiers in a setting that many students find more cost-effective and attainable than a traditional, four-year college degree program.

When Ivy Tech first opened its doors in Indiana, it offered one-degree program and served about 3,000 students. Today, it offers more than 125 areas of academic study, has campuses in 100 locations across the state and enrolls nearly 200,000 Hoosier students each year. Our Fort Wayne branch, Ivy Tech Northeast, reaches about 12,000 students in our community alone.

Ivy Tech has been instrumental in our state's efforts to increase the number of degree-holding residents. On top of increasing college access for Hoosiers, Ivy Tech is lauded for creating partnerships with industry executives and employers so that their students can be trained with the exact skills needed to qualify for available jobs in the area.

This is exactly the type of innovation that we need in our state to adequately prepare our future workers, especially considering employers in Indiana report that one of the major obstacles to stronger job growth is a "skills gap" between available workers and available jobs.

According to a study by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, nearly one-third of Indiana's workforce lacks the basic skills necessary to succeed in today's economy. The urgency of addressing this gap is only increasing as our economy and workforce become more globalized and high tech.

It's estimated that by 2018, 55 percent of jobs in Indiana will require some sort of post-secondary education or training. That's why our community and satellite colleges are more important now than ever before.

At the Statehouse, lawmakers have taken steps to make sure our community colleges have the tools they need to continue growing and succeeding. During last year's legislative session, the General Assembly passed a law requiring public colleges and universities to create a system of courses that are automatically transferable among different colleges and diplomas.

This was done in part to guarantee that students who begin their degree at a local community college can easily transfer to one of Indiana's public, four-year institutions.

To build on this initiative, this year's Senate has passed Senate Bill 182 further improving the transferability of college credits, so that students have every possible opportunity to get a more affordable degree.

This session, legislators are also considering an initiative to create a state-wide Indiana Career Council. The goal of House Bill 1002 is to foster collaboration between state government, business, education and labor to improve Indiana's workforce development efforts. Because we recognize how essential our community college system is in helping Hoosiers prepare for and find work, the president of Ivy Tech will be asked to sit on this council.

As Ivy Tech marks its 50th anniversary, it's a good time to express our gratitude for all it does to educate our state's residents. Let's continue to support and improve our higher education system so we can face the future confident in the knowledge that Hoosiers are ready and prepared for tomorrow's jobs and a changing 21st-century economy.


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