About one of every 11 Northwest Indiana residents remained unemployed during July, yet hundreds of jobs go unfilled.
Work force data shows there is a disconnect between available job openings and Northwest Indiana’s unemployment rate that stood at 9.1 percent in July, almost a full percentage point above the state and nation’s average.
Industry experts say many job seekers don’t have the skills needed or may not know where to look for available jobs.
“There is a mismatch between the needs of the economy and the workers that are out there,” said Dr. Timothy Slaper, director of economic analysis for the Indiana Business Research Center at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
Linda Woloshansky, president and chief executive office for the Center of Workforce Innovations, agrees.
“We know there are jobs,” she said. “That’s the good news. But we see the jobs that are available and not able to be filled.”
Woloshansky said the disconnect between job openings and job seekers is exacerbated because jobs are changing rapidly.
“They morph every few years into something different,” she said. “Skills and knowledge are advancing quickly, but people don’t realize that because the jobs have same title – such as administrative assistant – as they did 10 years ago. People aren’t staying current on what skill sets they need for the jobs.”
The ideal would be for training and education institutions to align programs and training with what employers are looking for, Woloshansky said.
Workers too, need to make adjustments, Slaper said.
“Going back to school or getting more training is kind of the answer,” he said. “But can be difficult because of time, tuition (or) a family to support.”
In Northwest Indiana there currently are many job openings at the region’s many small businesses, in advanced manufacturing, in the basic metals industry and in job opening being produced by the increasing level of retirements, according to Woloshansky.
“Employers want good computer skills, advanced education, basic reading and math skills as they are bringing in new workers,” Woloshansky said. “They want to make sure workers can advance into better jobs. More education shows that workers are inclined to learn. It sends a message that you are a lifelong learner and willing to stay current. That all weighs in on the decision employers make when they hire.”
A recently released study by the Indiana Business Research Center says Hoosiers’ unemployment experience was more aligned with jobseekers' academic major rather than with their degree level – certificate, bachelors, masters or doctorate – or their industry.
“This suggests that choice of academic major can greatly influence a graduate’s probability of becoming unemployed during a severe economic downturn,” according to the study, which also says a person’s academic background also can influence how long it takes to find a new job.
The study shows those with the most education have the lowest unemployment rate, and they also find work faster if they are unemployed.
“And there are some disciplines, for example architecture and fine arts, where it is going to be more difficult to find employment because there is a small set of institutions you can work for,” Slaper said.
Thus, when people are planning their careers, they should understand what obstacles they are facing, he said.
“These decisions have consequences,” Slaper said.