The Brookings Institution has found central Indiana is part of a national employment struggle. The Brookings study shows half of all jobs in central Indiana provide neither livable wages nor opportunities to grow in the industry.
Brookings senior research associate Chad Shearer says the study focuses on jobs that don’t require a college degree.
“The reason that we’re so focused on these workers is because on one hand we see opportunity for them shrinking in both central Indiana and throughout the U.S. economy as a whole,” he says.
Shearer applauds the areas ability to attract jobs, but notes most of the jobs fall into the low-wage category.
It’s a phenomenon for which Democrats regularly criticized then-governors Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence. However, Shearer says that at the time of the Great Recession a decade ago, any job – regardless of wage – was important for the economic development of communities.
“The job growth that the prior administration or the prior governors have achieved was absolutely crucial to just keeping people employed,” he says.
Still, Shearer says the region lags when it comes to those without a college degree finding a well-paying job or one with potential for advancement.
“The trouble is that the growth isn’t translating into higher wages and better opportunities for sub-baccalaureate workers,” he says.
Shearer says the challenge for these workers is finding the time to train for a new job.
“Unfortunately, the way education works in the United States, it’s just impossible for many of the people already participating in the labor market to go back to school,” he says.
And it’s not the sole answer to transforming the workforce and job opportunities.
“Many people may say that just by educating workers, you can create good jobs. That really all you need is more education, more training to make sure that people are competent enough to take the jobs that are available,” says Shearer. “This report shows that is not necessarily the only thing that’s prohibiting wage growth and job quality in central Indiana. This region also needs to be growing the types of jobs that provide good wages and provide opportunities for skilled workers to earn a decent living.”
Some of the opportunity industries the institution identified for central Indiana include manufacturing, government, construction, logistics and health care.
While the study was focused on central Indiana, other cities and town officials in the state might find the report useful for their communities.
“We think that a lot of the findings and implications from the advancing opportunities report absolutely translate to other communities across the state from Bloomington to Evansville to South Bend and we hope leaders there will take a look,” Shearer says.
The study was commissioned by the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership.