by Sarah Einselen
---- — “The problem isn’t too many graduates, it’s too few jobs.”
That’s one of the conclusions of a report funded by the Lilly Endowment, “Indiana’s Competitive Economic Advantage: The opportunity to win the global competition for college-educated talent.” The study, conducted by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, recently found that Indiana has a strong higher-education pipeline, but doesn’t have enough jobs to employ the graduates coming out of its four-year colleges and universities.
Commissioned by the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, a group of corporate executives and university presidents dedicated to promoting the region’s prosperity and growth, the study states that Indiana lags behind much of the nation when it comes to how well-educated its workforce is — which, in turn, affects how high employees’ salaries reach.
That’s despite Indiana being 12th in the nation in the rate of its ninth graders going on to complete a college-level program, according to the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. The state also reaches slightly above the national average for students who graduate within six years of starting a four-year degree.
Yet, less than a quarter of Hoosiers 25 years or older had completed a bachelor’s degree or a more advanced degree in 2010, according to data from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
It’s not as if students aren’t going to college at all. Logansport High School guidance registrar Debbye Piercy reported that 46 percent of the 242 students who received a diploma this past spring were going on to attend a four-year college.
Another 29 percent were planning to attend a two-year college, such as Ivy Tech Community College, and 4 percent planned to attend a vocational school.
But in Cass County, 16 percent of its population age 25 and older had completed at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the most recent INDWD statistics available. Statewide that rate reached 25 percent. The largest proportion of employed Cass County workers — 31 percent — have no more than a high school education.
“Simply put, a lack of job opportunities for these graduates ... leads to their migration,” the study stated, “and ultimately low adult attainment despite a strong higher education pipeline.”
That jibes with what Piercy has been hearing from Logansport graduates who went on to complete a bachelor’s degree, she said.
“As you can see from our data, the percentage of students pursuing a higher education, in my opinion, is pretty impressive for a town of our size,” Piercy said. “Staff at LHS continue to impress upon all students the importance of obtaining their high school diploma and how that alone could affect their adult life.”
The CICP study focused on 10 key high-skill occupations in what it called “traded sector” industries, those which address needs beyond local residents and businesses — manufacturing, distribution logistics, life sciences, technology, corporate headquarters and finance, and engineering and technical services.
Of those occupations, Indiana’s growth beat national growth in just two: The state added physical scientists at nearly double the rate that the nation did, and computer-related occupations grew at 19 percent over six years versus the national rate of 13 percent growth. Other occupations either grew more slowly or declined faster than the national rate. The study took that as evidence of the state’s weak demand for occupations that demand at least a bachelor’s degree.
And while the coming retirement of Baby Boomers will open up a significant number of high-skill jobs, the study indicated many of them will have to be filled by people with both education and experience — something new graduates won’t have.
About 26 percent of Cass County workers, according to the INDWD, are employed in management, business, science and art occupations, which include healthcare jobs — all sectors that more often require at least four years of college education and where jobs come with higher salaries, according to the CICP study.
However, 46 percent are employed in production or service-oriented occupations, yielding average wages for Cass County that fall short of Indiana’s average, much less the nation’s.
“Of course, we would love to see all [LHS graduates] get college educations and return,” Piercy said. “But, unfortunately the job market available in this area couldn’t support them.”
Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151.
Cass County educational attainmentage 25 to 64 years Total Employed Less than high school: 15 percent 8 percent High school: 42 31 Some college or associate's degree: 27 21 Bachelor's degree or higher: 16 31 Source: Education of the Employed Residents Age 25 to 64 (U.S. Census Bureau, ACS 2011 5-year estimate), Indiana Department of Workforce Development