INDIANAPOLIS – A bill at the Statehouse is aiming to get more Hoosiers with disabilities into the workforce.

House Bill 1160 would create workforce training opportunities in the manufacturing sector for Hoosiers with disabilities. The proposal passed in the House with unanimous support and is now being considered by the Senate.

Currently, the Erskine Green Training Institute, a vocational program in Muncie for people with disabilities, provides classes in the health care, hospitality and food service fields, according to Kim Dodson of The Arc of Indiana.

“Before Erskine Green, I was very socially anxious, not really good with loud environments or crowds,” said Noah Upchurch, who completed the program and now works in a Carmel hotel. “But with the training on the job site, that kind of felt like it prepared me for a lot of that.”

The Statehouse bill would allow those offerings to expand to include a manufacturing-focused pilot program, offered in partnership with four to five companies, Dodson said.

Several Hoosier employers are hoping to get involved, she added.

“We already have some people with disabilities working very successfully,” Dodson said. “Toyota, Allison is interested in this program. Cook Medical down in Bloomington hires people with disabilities.”

According to The Arc of Indiana, the Hoosier State ranks in the bottom half of all states for employment rates for people with disabilities. Nearly 80% of Hoosiers with disabilities are unemployed, Dodson said.

In addition to training Hoosiers with disabilities, the bill would also allow employers to work together to teach their current employees new skills for higher-paying jobs.

“Identify people who have the ability to move up to a higher-skilled, higher-wage job, and then replace those workers with people with disabilities who may not be in the workforce at all right now,” explained State Rep. Ed Clere (R-New Albany), the bill’s author.

“You have such an untapped market for people with disabilities who really want to get out in the community,” Upchurch said. “They really want to work. They just need a little bit of training.”

The bill was passed unanimously by a Senate committee Monday. It has been sent to the Appropriations committee so lawmakers can work out the details on state funding for the program.