Wednesday marked the 4th meeting of the Interim Study Committee on Economic Development. Once again, we had a variety of subjects to tackle and spent hours in productive discussion. When we get down into the weeds, it can be difficult to keep peoples interest; however I hope that like me, you will begin to notice some overall patterns in our discussions.
This week, we heard testimony about the extreme importance of an education. The Commissioner of Higher Education in Indiana shared with us that between the ages of 18-39, the average person will experience 8-10 job changes. This is very different from the job market of our parents’ generation where many worked at the same company for 20 plus years. The world is changing and more than ever, there is a linkage between education and employment.
In order to maximize success at the post-secondary level, committee members wanted to know how the state can help make sure that students know what they want to do when they enter college. Changing majors can not only cause students to have to stay in school longer but can result in added debt as well. A representative from the Department of Education gave a presentation on Career and Technical Education (CTE) to illustrate the state’s efforts to tackle this issue.
CTE offers K-12 students a broad selection of dual credit courses, saving Hoosier families about $7-8 million per year in tuition costs. The program consists of 12 career clusters that help students pick their route of study based on the major industries in Indiana. Often, when we think of career and technical education, we think of students who do not plan to go to college however this is not always the case and CTE courses can reduce the remediation rate for those who do decide to attend college.
An important part of CTE is financial literacy. For example, students are able to see what their potential salary range would be for each career path they chose. This encourages them to think about stability and providing for a family in the future rather than simply looking at the glamour of any given profession. While still in high school, students are also able to receive certifications in areas such as welding, cosmetology and nursing – at the cost of the state.
This program is an excellent framework on which to build our K-12 path to post-secondary education. However, there is currently no consistency in how career pathway assessments are given throughout the state. In fact, during the 2011-2012 school year, only 190,000 high school students participated in CTE. Not only do we need to look into increasing access but also marketing it so that students want to be involved.
Finally, we talked about something which has been in the news quite a bit recently: wages in Indiana. While it is true that compared to other states, Indiana has lower average wages than many, we also enjoy a low cost of living. If you grew up in Indiana, you already know the benefits of living in this environment however the question remains, how do we market this to people outside of Indiana?
Dr. Hicks, an economist from Ball State explained that in the short term, households move to jobs but in the long term, jobs move to households. As we get older, we begin to care about things like our commute to work, where our kids will go to school and the safety of our neighborhoods. While it is important for us to continue to attract new, competitive business to Indiana, Dr. Hicks explained that we also need to do more to build communities.
At the local level, we need to attract people that will create their own jobs or that employers would seek out. This can be done through developing distinctive personalities for our cities and towns that will appeal to a variety of people. In short, our communities need to find their niche.
Next week, we will have our 5th and final meeting, after which our committee will begin making policy recommendations to the General Assembly. We continue to hear from those both within our state and beyond its borders that Indiana is poised to be a beacon of economic success in the years ahead and I appreciate everyone who continues to come out to these meetings to make that possible.