Northeast Indiana wage levels impact talent retention
Northeast Indiana wage levels impact talent retention By Rachel Blakeman and John Stafford kpcnews.com
Know anyone looking for a job? With an unemployment rate hovering between 2.5 and 3 percent in northeast Indiana, local job seekers, especially those with a post-secondary credential like a bachelor’s degree or technical certificate, won’t be without a paycheck for long.
This is a dramatic turnaround from the Great Recession high of 13 percent unemployment at the beginning of 2010. Thanks in part to the strong presence of vehicle and medical-device manufacturing, employment has rebounded nicely in the past few years. Yet this only tells part of the economic story.
We have a lot of folks working in northeast Indiana – more than 375,000 in the Indiana Department of Workforce Department’s 11-county area data as of June – but the wages they bring home are frustratingly low when compared to other Midwestern cities and the country as a whole. This is highlighted throughout the Community Research Institute at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne report titled “A Comparative Assessment of the Fort Wayne Metropolitan Area Economy 2001-2016.” It was presented in May to the Allen County Board of Commissioners and is available on the CRI website at ipfw.edu/centers/cri/reports.
The average weekly wage for that 10-county region in 2016’s third quarter was $790, for an annual earned income of about $41,000. Things look a little better for workers in the Fort Wayne metropolitan statistical area of Allen, Wells and Whitley counties at $823 per week or $42,800 annually.
However both measures lag behind Indiana’s statewide average of $866 and Ohio and Michigan at $924 and $976 respectively. This means that Michiganders, on average, made $9,700 more last year than northeast Indiana’s workers. Furthermore, Fort Wayne metro’s $823 came in dead last when compared against the average wages of 13 comparable Midwestern cities including South Bend, Toledo, Dayton and Grand Rapids, Mich. Ouch.
The local wage totals don’t look better when evaluated over time. In 2001, the three-county Fort Wayne metro area had an average annual wage of $32,168. Jump ahead a decade and a half? The average annual wage in 2015 was $31,934 adjusted for inflation. And no, there’s no typo there. Real wages actually fell to what amounts to $978 when accounting for inflation.
Setting aside inflation adjustments, Fort Wayne metro average wages rose $9,768 between 2001 and 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In contrast, the U.S. metro aggregate wage increase was $16,667 in that same time. Since these earnings represent almost two-thirds of total personal income locally, lower earned income contributes to the area’s low per-capita income when compared to national figures.
It is tempting to look at the area’s recognized low cost of living as a sufficient offset to our lower-than-average wages, but that is not an equal trade.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis’s Regional Price Parity tool for 2015 puts the distance between the buying power of Fort Wayne’s metro wages for goods and services and Des Moines at about 5 percent, yet Des Moines residents on average make about 23 percent more than we do. This puts northeast Indiana in jeopardy of losing workers, especially the skilled employees we so desperately want, to other locations because they could opt to take the increased cost of living in return for even higher wages.
A strong argument can be made that at least part of our wage depression can be attributed to the loss of skilled, well-paying jobs like Navistar’s engineering center and ITT’s military radio production. The jobs that replaced them, especially those in the service sector, simply tend to pay less.
So what can we do to lift local wages? One of the best ways is to develop a better-educated, more-skilled workforce that commands higher pay in the market and attracts employers likely to pay more.
A 2017 Ball State Center for Business and Economic Research report found five of the top 10 Indiana counties with the highest rates of bachelor’s degrees also fell in the top 10 counties with the highest per capita income. No northeast Indiana county made either list.
Our manufacturing-heavy economy may have less demand for bachelor’s degrees than other cities, but new jobs projected to be created here between now and 2024 are going to need more workers with something between a certificate and an advanced degree than jobs requiring a high school diploma or less. Additionally under simple economic theory of supply and demand, we can hope that employers will respond to the tight labor market with higher wages to attract and retain workers.
The Fort Wayne area has come a long way since the economic downturn from seven to 10 years ago. People can find a job here if they want one, however it may not be at the pay they once earned. Or they may decide it’s time to take their skills elsewhere for a bigger paycheck.
John Stafford was the interim Community Research Institute director prior to the arrival of Rachel Blakeman. Contact the Community Research Institute director at 481-0274 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Governor Holcomb announces 15 additional counties selected for FSSA’s On My Way Pre-K program
Indianapolis (June 7, 2017) – Governor Eric J. Holcomb today announced 15 additional Indiana counties are now eligible to participate in On My Way Pre-K, making prekindergarten available in 2018 to 4-year-olds from low-income families in those counties. Earlier this year, the Indiana General Assembly expanded the program from five pilot counties to 20 counties in House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1004-2017.
The new counties added to the On My Way Pre-K program are Bartholomew, DeKalb, Delaware, Elkhart, Floyd, Grant, Harrison, Howard, Kosciusko, Madison, Marshall, Monroe, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe and Vigo. Participating local providers in these counties will be expected to enroll children in On My Way Pre-K for the 2018/2019 school year, with the possibility of a limited program beginning in January of 2018.
These additional counties will join Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties, which have provided early education via the On My Way Pre-K program since 2015 when first authorized by the General Assembly.
“Eligible Hoosier children who start at the back of the line now have an opportunity to move ahead when enrolled in a high-quality pre-kindergarten program,” Governor Holcomb said. “A strategic investment now to expand state-funded prekindergarten for children from low-income families is an essential investment we must make in Indiana’s workforce and our state’s future.”
“We at FSSA already know from the two years we have spent managing the five-county pilot of On My Way Pre-K that children who begin the program are some of the most educationally needy in our state, yet they make higher gains than their peers in important aspects of school readiness such as language comprehension, early literacy, executive functioning and a reduction in behavior problems in the classroom,” said Indiana Family and Social Services Secretary Dr. Jennifer Walthall. “We hope the expansion of On My Way Pre-K will double the number of Hoosier children receiving these important benefits.”
HEA 1004 tasked the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) via its Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning (OECOSL), to identify 15 additional counties that demonstrated readiness to support an expansion of the On My Way Pre-K program. In total, OECOSL asked 27 counties for readiness statements based upon the following factors:
- To evaluate need in the community
o The number of 4-year-olds being served under the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) in each county, as well as any children who were on the CCDF waitlist
- To evaluate available capacity
o The number of Early Care and Education (ECE) providers who have reached a Level 3 or 4 in the Paths to Quality (PTQ) system in each county
o Demonstration that capacity might be available based upon number of Level 3 and 4 (PTQ)
child care providers existing in county vs. the number of children currently being served
- To evaluate community support
o The demonstration that the county has an active ECE coalition that could support
community engagement as well as philanthropic support
Twenty of the 27 counties responded to OECOSL’s request for information. Applications were then
scored by two separate groups of early learning professionals. Scoring included the following key
- The county’s readiness to implement and sustain the program, including the ability to raise
the statutorily required community contribution
- The involvement of all community partners that would support a mixed delivery system that
includes public and private schools, child care home providers, child care centers and
- The number of potentially eligible children
- Whether the county was defined as “rural” or “primarily rural” by the U.S. Census Bureau
- The kindergarten retention rate in the county
HEA 1004 required that consideration be given to counties that are primarily rural. It also required
counties to secure a community contribution of a minimum of five percent of the state’s total
investment in that county’s program. The 2017 Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) annual report
estimates about 6,700 4-year-olds in these new counties are likely to need care and whose families have
incomes at or below 127 percent of Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is required for eligibility.
In addition to representatives of FSSA’s OECOSL, the team of reviewers included early education
professionals from the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), Head Start, the Early Learning Advisory
Council (ELAC), the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children (Indiana AEYC) Early
Learning Indiana, United Way of Central Indiana, and the University of Southern Indiana’s Department
of Teacher Education.
More information about On My Way Pre-K is available here.
Contact: Stephanie Wilson, Governor’s Office: 317-914-9137
Marni Lemons, FSSA: 317-234-5287, email@example.com
At the Mercy of the Almighty Dollar
The Star – February 23, 2015
by Linda Lipp
FORT WAYNE — Jessica and Ken Butterfield are doing everything right, but it’s an everyday battle just to keep up with the costs of raising four children — let alone get ahead.
“We knew all along that it was our desire that we would home-school our children,” she said. “We made the choice before we got married that we wanted to have more control over what our kids were learning, the environment they were in.”
It also made no financial sense as their family grew for her to go back to work and put the children in day care. With the small salary she would have made, “at the end of the month if we had paid for child care, we wouldn’t even have broken even,” she said.
The Butterfields were getting along OK until late last year on his annual wages of $37,000 for a job at Triple Crown that came with good benefits. But he lost that job, and the benefits, when the company slashed its local workforce from 240 people to just 40. He found another position as a dispatcher with a small trucking company pretty quickly, and it came with $1,000 more a year in pay. The problem, however, was the switch would mean a health insurance bill for the family of $18,000 a year.
The family knew a month or so in advance that his job at Triple Crown would be cut, and he immediately started looking for something else. The trucking company where he now works was the first to make him an offer.
“We went over and over our finances. We looked at the option of taking this job with no insurance, or sitting on unemployment to look for something else. But unemployment would not have met our monthly bills. We felt that this was the choice we had to make,” Jessica explained.
The stress of coping
“Jessica can be very intense and over-stressed about things, and I am the complete opposite,” Ken agreed.
From a small town in Ohio, Jessica came to Fort Wayne to go to Taylor University, where she lasted about two years and changed her major several times.
“It was very important to me. I didn’t want to have to be getting assistance. I did not want that to be who we were,” she said. “I made my mistakes. I wanted to grow from them and teach my children better.”
Reading success early pays off later in life
By Brityn Calloway, February 8, 2017
KPC NEWS – The third grade marks a pivotal time in a child’s life when it comes to reading and their chances of achieving educational and career success well into the future.
Those 8- and 9-year-olds may not recognize it, but education experts do.
“They go from reading, ‘See Spot go,’ to reading about geography and science,” said Judy Sorg, director of Learning Link DeKalb County.
The third grade often is when children make the leap from learning how to speak and write to using those newfound language skills to have a deeper understanding of subjects such as math, history and science.
The U.S. Department of Education categorizes children by the third grade, based on their reading proficiency. Educators and researchers use literacy test scores to determine the likelihood that a child will graduate high school.
According to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, approximately 16 percent of children who are found to lack third-grade reading proficiency do not graduate high school, a number four times greater than proficient readers.
The Education Department says that to be a proficient reader, students must be able to understand the reading process; be able to gain background information on the topic they are reading about; apply that background knowledge to help their understanding of the material; read in a comprehensive manner; be able to handle themselves instances in which they don’t understand part of the material; and retain the information once the material is done.
The list is extensive, but it is something that literate adults do every day. They read articles, books and even posts on Facebook, and do so in a comprehensive manner, which then allows them to respond to the material.
According to Learning Link, a program of the Community Foundation of DeKalb County, only 66 percent of third-graders and 56 percent of second-graders in DeKalb County were labeled as proficient in 2016, based on their performance on the Northwest Evaluation Association assessment.
That’s cause for concern and celebration. “Numbers are going up each year,” Sorg said.
Across northeast Indiana, 88 percent of third-graders passed the IREAD-3 assessment during the 2014-2015 school year, according to data compiled for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s Big Goal 2016 Snapshot report. The partnership covers an 11-county area, which includes DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble and Steuben.
Parents play a key role in child’s reading proficiency and literacy. A fact sheet citing Education Department data prepared by the National Education Association states: “Where parent involvement is low, the classroom mean average (reading score) is 46 points below the national average. Where involvement is high, classrooms score 28 points above the national average — a gap of 74 points.”
“When parents have the knowledge and want to pass on their knowledge to their child, their child will be more literate,” Sorg said.
Practice helps, too. The more a child reads at home or has a parent read to him or her, the greater the likelihood the child will be proficient in his or her schoolwork. Sorg suggests just 15 minutes of reading a day will help children’s comprehension.
Children who fall behind in reading while they’re young often continue to struggle academically. According to the Indiana Business Research Center, the percentages of adults 18 and older in the four-county area who don’t have a diploma or high school equivalency are: DeKalb, 12.1 percent; LaGrange, 40.1 percent; Noble, 16.7 percent; and Steuben, 11 percent.
In all, that’s about 22,600 people.
Impact Institute, based in Kendallville, offers high school equivalency courses for adults in DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben and Whitley counties. The organization tries to make the courses, which are free, as convenient as possible to attend.
“Our goal is to bring our classes to the people who can’t necessarily travel to them,” said Caroline Foster, assistant director for adult education at Impact Institute. “So you will see that counties that don’t have a literacy coalition, their classes will be at public libraries and schools.”
Earning a high school equivalency diploma can help offset the challenges created when a child falls behind in reading at an early age. It also makes a person more desirable to potential employers.
“College isn’t for everyone,” Foster said. “I’m not saying that people shouldn’t go to college, but there are a lot of jobs that call for adult learning and not college degrees.”
Learning Link unveils new mission
By Emeline Rodenas, April 13, 2017
AUBURN — A new mission for Learning Link was revealed Monday evening at Bridgewater Golf Club in Auburn.
“We’re not changing our core beliefs, but rather the way we get it done,” said Learning Link Director Judy Sorg.
The organization’s new focus will be to align community organizations, businesses and providers of learning opportunities and resources toward shared education goals. Overall, it will help build a network of resources and opportunities that people will be able to use.
Community members, business representatives and learning providers attended Learning Link’s spring community meeting to learn about future plans to improve education levels in DeKalb County.
Learning Link DeKalb County has been working since May 2016 with Debra Natenshon, contributing author of “The Performance Imperative,” published by the Leap Ambassadors Community, leaders in the field of high performance.
“Debra’s reminded us that change around learning in our community relies on aligning our community organizations, business and industry, and providers of learning opportunities and resources toward shared educational goals. No one organization can achieve social change single-handedly. It’s by working collectively that we create lasting and sustainable change,” said Sorg.
Learning Link’s new, refocused vision is to inspire a community of lifelong learners throughout DeKalb County and to improve quality of life for all.
Foundation learning, from birth to fifth grade, will focus on third-grade reading literacy and collecting data to gauge literacy levels.
Julia Tipton, director of curriculum at DeKalb Central schools, said, “We’d like to come to a concensus, to create and decide upon how to gauge progress. We’d like a commited individual from each of the public and private schools involved.” The organization hopes to have countywide data by December.
Continual learning, which focuses on education from ninth grade through adulthood, set a broader target. The previous focus was economic, but Tanya Young, director of community engagement with Ivy Tech Northeast, said, “We want to step up and see a bigger picture.”
“Every community has tremendous education needs. Our strategic objective is not to offer programs and services directly, but to connect community organizations, businesses and providers of learning opportunities and inspire a community of lifelong learners,” said Matt Bechdol, Learning Link steering committee chair and vice president of the DeKalb County Community Foundation board.
Attendees were part of breakout activities afterward and discussed gaps and barriers for both continual and foundation learning.
For continual learning, gaps such as a lack of skilled workers in the manufacturing field and alternative career options other than college were identified.
Gaps in foundation learning were a lack of stable public transportation for families to get places and parent involvement. The importance of a socio-emotional screening tool was added, as socio-emotional development is directly linked to kindergarten readiness.
The organization also mentioned the lack of resources for students in grade 6-8. The organization hopes to amend this.
Madeleine Baker, CEO of Early Childhood Alliance, and John Peirce, consultant to Allen County United Way and The Big Goal Collaborative, spoke about the potential for expanding pre-kindergarten education to more low-income 4-year-olds in Indiana.
Peirce shared a saying, “Everything I learn, I learn in early childhood.” Students who attend a full day of quality pre-K for a full year were found to make 15 months worth of progress in only nine months, accirding to him.
Baker added, “It all starts with parents. Success starts early, and the distinct one-on-one role is so important.”
“Progress comes back to quality programs. It tells a story with the data,” Peirce said.
The Learning Link continual learning and foundation learning teams will meet again Tuesday, May 23, at 3:30 p.m. The next community meeting will be held in October, date to be announced.
For more information about Learning Link or to get involved with the organization, people may call Sorg at 925-0311 or send e-mail to JSorg@CFDeKalb.org.