by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz
We spend a lot of time talking about stagnant wages here in Indiana. And while this may sound cruel, the individuals most responsible for this are the ones with either no skill set or they let they let skill set fall by the wayside.
Allow me to explain. According to the most recent state revenue forecast Indiana is expected to fall short of about $156 million over the next few years in income tax collections, much of that is attributed to “wage growth uncertainty” despite gains in employment. In English that means the jobs are being created, however the wages aren’t necessarily rising as a whole.
Instinctively, that would lead you to believe that while jobs are being created, they aren’t the “good paying jobs” that people need to make a living. That’s not entirely true, in fact, the opposite tends to be true. The “good paying jobs” are being created, the problem is finding the people to fill them.
Allow me to explain, over the last couple years, Indiana has gained about 100,000 jobs. More than half of them pay above the average weekly wage of $813 (that’s a little more than $42,000 annually). Now get this, the largest growth sector has been in manufacturing, which pays on average $1,095 a week, nearly $57,000 annually. That’s not a bad bit of change. Throw in your spouse who works and you can have a comfortable lifestyle because Indiana is not that expensive a place to live. CNBC rated the state as the sixth cheapest in the nation.
Now let’s compare that to some other numbers, while Indiana has a high school completion rate of nearly 90 percent only 35 percent of Hoosiers between 25 and 64 had at least an associate’s degree. That’s a pretty big drop off. And even when we get people enrolled in higher education, there is still a completion issue. Only 30 percent finish within four years and 50 percent finish within six years.
You see where this is going. The facts are pretty clear, the more education and training you have, the more likely your income will rise. Now this is where someone will some point out a very successful person who did not have any post-secondary education. However I think we can all agree that for every exception, there are millions of people who are the rule. And I can assure the ones who did well without a formal education aren’t hiring high school dropouts to manage their finances.
The state is doing its part to expand career readiness. Whether it is reworking school curriculum to make students more college and career ready, programs through Ivy Tech (full disclosure, I teach there) or the free training programs through the Department of Workforce Development there are numerous opportunities for individuals to improve their lot in this world. Unfortunately, not enough people are taking advantage of it. If they were, maybe there wouldn’t be more than one million Hoosiers on some form of government assistance.
Abdul-Hakim is the editor of Indy Politics. Feel free to tell him he’s lost his mind at email@example.com.