GUEST COMMENTARY: Jobs, education are keys to thriving economy

2013-11-24T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Jobs, education are keys to thriving economyBy James Dworkin nwitimes.com
November 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Jobs – secure, well-paying jobs – help to build and solidify a community.

Workers reinvest their salaries in their communities. They have the earning power to buy homes; they pay income and property taxes that are used to support education, public safety and local infrastructure.

Their disposable incomes have a significant economic impact on the local economy as they shop for everything from the necessities of food, clothing and shelter, to the extras of travel, recreational activities and sports or music lessons for their children.

Their purchases allow businesses of all sorts to put more people to work, resulting in paychecks spent locally.

Studies show employed people commit fewer crimes, are less likely to need social services and are more likely to have a pension or retirement income. They are more likely to volunteer, they vote, and they are more likely to send their children to college. We need to perpetuate this cycle.

A goal set forth in the first report issued by the Quality of Life Council (a One Region predecessor) in 2000 was “to obtain economic prosperity that is sustainable, equitable, and competitive in the global economy.”

The most recent report noted a similar economic goal: “We aspire to be a region that is thriving and values economic prosperity for all.”

Both reports mention the need to strive for “economic prosperity,” a reasonable aim.

Our region has undergone tremendous change in the 13 years since the first Quality of Life report was issued. We’ve been through some tough times, but we see a lot of positives as we strive toward achieving the goal “economic prosperity for all.”

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development reported that in August, Indiana added 3,000 manufacturing jobs. The private educational and health services sector grew by 3,000 jobs as well.

Added to that, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education anticipates Indiana will see a projected 930,000 job openings by 2018. Of that, 506,000 will require postsecondary credentials.

Education holds the key to success. In a recently released report, “Return on Investment,” the ICHE notes that on average, college graduates earn an extra $20,000 a year more than non-graduates and can earn up to $1 million more during the course of a career. It really does pay to graduate from college!

The value of a degree extends beyond individual careers and bank accounts. ICHE research found even a 1 percent increase in the number of Hoosiers with college degrees will lead to a 2 percent increase in overall statewide economic activity.

It is important for us to establish a culture of success in Northwest Indiana as we work to ensure people enter the job market with the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to succeed.

Education and employment in good jobs are the keys to a thriving local economy. When our local universities and businesses work together to produce highly skilled individuals and challenging 21st century jobs, we will be closer to our goal of having economic prosperity for all.

James Dworkin is chancellor of Purdue University North Central. The opinions are the writer's.

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