Each month, government officials release a jobs report. The employment and unemployment figures send ripples or waves through political polls and financial markets. But the real economic Richter scale is (or should be) per-capita income.
It's a key indicator of economic well being.
Currently, Indiana's per capita picture is not pretty.
In 2010, Indiana ranked 41st among the 50 states in per capita personal income, down from 33rd in 2000. During the last decade, Hoosiers saw per capita income increase by less than one percent, giving Indiana smaller income growth than all but four states in the nation.
For Indiana to avoid another lost decade, we need a stronger education system - one that's better aligned with employer's needs and one better able to prepare Hoosier workers for global competition.
In fact, studies show that by 2025, nearly 60 percent of Indiana jobs will require some postsecondary education.
We have a long way to go.
Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation recently released a report showing that in 2010, only 33.2 percent of Hoosier adults held a two- or four-year college degree.
Lumina also found that at our current slow pace of improvement, slightly more than 40 percent of Indiana's adults will have a college degree by
2025 - well short of the 60 percent needed.
If we're to compete, if we're to grow our per capita income, something has to change.
In 2010, as part of its Policy Choices project, the IU Public Policy Institute began developing options for workforce education improvement.
At the heart of these recommendations are three guiding principles:
* Every Indiana resident should possess the basic skills required
to remain competitive in the workforce and allow a successful transition to higher education or further training.
* Our education system must value degrees and credentials other
than a four-year bachelor's degree.
* Employer engagement is vital to improving education and
With these principles in mind, here are 11 key recommendations:
Align college and career standards for graduation from high school and admission to college
1. Integrate the final year of high school with the initial year of
postsecondary education for secondary school students who consistently demonstrate proficiency of college-and-career-readiness academic standards.
2. Increase dual-credit enrollment so that two-thirds of Indiana
students will leave high school with at least six college credits.
3. Identify those students unprepared for postsecondary education
and training and use the final year of high school to provide appropriate remediation.
4. Increase the use of technology, nontraditional schools and
Redesign Indiana's workforce training, economic development and postsecondary education strategies to ensure that workers remain competitive in the labor market
5. Expand accelerated degrees and intermediate credentialing
programs so that many more Hoosiers are prepared for good-paying, high-demand jobs.
6. Create an Office of Economic and Workforce Development by
integrating the Indiana Economic Development Corporation with the employment and training division of the Department of Workforce Development.
7. Align the state's policy-setting initiatives for postsecondary
education and training under the Commission for Higher Education, with specific emphasis on increasing system capacity and efficiency that will increase postsecondary attainment.
8. Incorporate the majority of the state's career and technical
education into the revamped Commission for Higher Education.
9. Increase promotion and use of the Benefit Bank to ensure that
residents are receiving all eligible federal and state benefits.
Increase participation by employers in the design and delivery of the workforce development system
10. Provide tax incentives for businesses that hire new workers and
train incumbent workers.
11. Create a statewide skills bank to connect employers with the
skilled workers they require.
With recent state funding cuts and considerable budget constraints for the foreseeable future, Indiana's education and workforce development systems will have to do more with less. The only way to achieve this is through a concerted effort on the part of legislators, educators, business leaders and citizens.
In these challenging times, how will Hoosiers respond? We hope and expect that they will respond as they always have: by rolling up their sleeves and getting to the important work of ensuring that Indiana's tomorrow is brighter than its today.
Jamie Merisotis is president and CEO of Lumina Foundation and a member of the IU Public Policy Institute Advisory Board. Jeff Terp is vice president for engagement at Ivy Tech Community College. They co-chaired the Policy Choices Education and Workforce Development Commission, a project of the IU Public Policy Institute.
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