Report: Pandemic has permanently altered Indiana’s employment landscape, exacerbated racial disparities in education, getting jobs

A new report has revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed the employment landscape in Marion County, showing a strong demand for workers with post-secondary degrees at the same time as there is a significant drop in the number of people obtaining degrees. Early childhood education is an important driver of job readiness and wealth, according to the report, which also shows that gaps in post-secondary education reflect gaps in the workforce. Ascend Indiana President and CEO Jason Kloth said in a press release that producing and retaining college graduates is important to Indiana.

Graph from Indiana’s Evolving Labor Market: How the Pandemic has Accelerated Misalignment in Talent Supply and Demand report depicting job changes beginning in 2020. Marion County is projected to fall flat and lose jobs for graduate workers by 2025 (Report screenshot)

“It is even more evident that additional measures must be taken to help Black and Hispanic/Latino students, who have experienced the largest post-secondary enrollment declines in 2020 during the pandemic, a trend that jeopardizes the well- be economical of all,” Kloth said.

The report was produced by Ascend Indiana, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and EmployIndy. The full report is available here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly slowed demand for unqualified workers

The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently altered Indiana’s employment landscape by accelerating the demand for graduate workers — called graduate workers — while diminishing the growth of ungraduated jobs. Jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher account for a larger share of job growth and will continue to have the strongest job growth with 90,000 new jobs by 2025, according to the report. However, Marion County is expected to lose approximately 0.18% of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree as more jobs shift to globalization, automation, and digitalization.

From 2011 to 2019, many new jobs in Indiana required a high school diploma or less and were growing at the fastest rate compared to graduate jobs, according to the report, but that number dropped significantly during the pandemic and does not unlikely to rebound from pandemic lows. in 2020.

A graph from Indiana’s Evolving Labor Market: How the Pandemic has Accelerated Misalignment in Talent Supply and Demand report shows the changing demand for different graduate talent. (Screenshot from the report)

Marion County has the highest concentration of people with a high school diploma and without a diploma. With a loss of well-paying jobs for these people, it can be “very problematic” leaving fewer opportunities for people without post-secondary degrees, Kloth said in an interview.

“If there are fewer jobs and a lot of people with that level of education, those people may not have transportation or access and mobility to get to those other jobs,” Kloth said. “So this is going to have really significant long-term consequences for the social safety net.”

Not only will there be fewer opportunities, but a large majority of jobs will be below the median salary. Of the 56,000 jobs expected to become available, only 10% are expected to earn more than the median salary of $37,000 a year, said EmployIndy President and CEO Marie Mackintosh.

Too few high school students go to college, increasing disparities

Black and Latino students have seen the biggest drop in post-secondary enrollment after the pandemic. Post-secondary enrollment overall declined from 65% to 59% in 2019. In 2020, this number hit a new low of 53%.

A high school diploma is a basic requirement for most jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 27% of jobs nationwide require no high school diploma. According to the report, students who do not graduate or graduate with a degree waiver — a degree with alternative graduation requirements — are less prepared for the modern job market and post-secondary opportunities.

A graph from Indiana’s Evolving Labor Market: How the Pandemic has Accelerated Misalignment in Talent Supply and Demand report shows the percentage of employed people in Indiana by race, ethnicity and gender. (Screenshot from the report)

The pandemic has exasperated long-existing racial disparities in academics, according to the research. Black and Latino students were already behind before the pandemic in state-level proficiency exams in core subjects such as English language arts, math and science. The statewide exam — called ILEARN — is an exam that students in grades three through eight take to measure growth according to Indiana curriculum standards. ILEARN’s performance dropped for all demographics in 2020-21, but dropped more significantly for Black and Latino students.

According to the study, lack of academic preparation in lower grades affects academic performance and career readiness. Black and Latino students, especially men, are less likely to graduate from high school or equivalent, reducing job opportunities and salaries.

Educational disparities have a direct impact on professional disparities

Black and Latino workers are more likely to work in jobs that require no formal education and tend to earn less than whites with the same degree and experience. Subsequently, black and Latino students are less likely to pursue higher-paying jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math — or STEM.

A graph from Indiana’s Evolving Labor Market: How the Pandemic has Accelerated Misalignment in Talent Supply and Demand report shows education disparities and automation risk by race. (Screenshot from the report)

These educational disparities contribute to a higher risk of automation for black and Latino workers, especially men. Black and Latino workers are underrepresented in high-paying, fast-growing careers, leading to disparities that ripple into the workplace. Disparities in job growth and educational attainment in Marion County “will likely present significant near- and near-term challenges associated with worsening poverty levels,” the report said.

White male graduates tend to earn more than their peers, both immediately after graduation and three to five years later. More students need to graduate from high school and enroll in post-secondary education to fill gaps in the labor market, the report said. Improving outcomes at every stage of education would help reduce racial disparities in the workforce and attainment of post-secondary education, according to the report.

What can be done?

Ascend Indiana recommends a few opportunities to bridge racial gaps and provide equitable opportunities for quality jobs:

  • Strong advising systems, automatic enrollment in Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program, enhanced data collection, and FAFSA completion as a graduation requirement.
  • Make internships more accessible to Black and Latino students and integrate them throughout the educational experience, including in high school and beyond. Ascend Indiana says employers should engage in education from middle school through high school, providing students with opportunities for career exploration, engagement, and experience such as internships or apprenticeships to young people.
  • Systematic changes such as a student transcript clearinghouse where post-secondary institutions can directly access a student’s transcript information and be used to attract, recruit, enroll and retain high school students . It also recommends providing incentives to education and training providers to increase enrollment and graduation.
  • Establish a statewide commission to develop findings and recommendations to enable personalized college and vocational education counseling for students, especially students from low-income households and neighborhoods.
  • Indiana should consider making FAFSA completion a condition of graduation, Kloth said, as well as automatically enrolling students in the 21st Century Scholarship program.

“To create a prosperous community for all, we need to increase the quality of jobs. We want people in good jobs,” Kloth said. “So we want to develop them. At the same time, we need to increase the number of people who are educated, who are lining up where these jobs are and that is the path to solving this problem. This is the path we need to be on and everything we need to do as a city and state must aim to achieve this reality.

Contact editor Jayden Kennett at 317-762-7847 or email jaydenk@indyrecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @JournoJay.

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