EcO Network Forum on the Future of Work

Partners gather to discuss Future of Work

The energy in the room was high on Monday, November 4th when close to a hundred EcO Network partners met at the Indigo Hotel in Columbus for a discussion forum on the future of work. We had representatives from all EcO Network industry sectors including manufacturing, healthcare and information technology (IT). Employer partners in attendance included: Aisin World America, Centerstone Behavior Health, Columbus Regional Health, Cummins, Batesville Tool & Die, Honda, Lindal Group, Lannett, NTN Driveshaft, Omega Management, Pet Supplies Plus, Schneck, and Toyota. Education and government partners included: BCSC, DWD, Latino Education Group, McDowell, Marion, Purdue IN-MAC, River Valley Resources, IUPUC, Ivy Tech and community partners: New America, United Way, East Indiana AHEC, Turning Point, and community foundations in Switzerland County and Rising Sun.

New America keynote speaker addresses inequalities of automation displacement

Molly Martin, Director of New America Indianapolis, helped us learn from studies and discussions across the state on the future of work. Through data and stories, we learned how rural versus urban areas in Indiana and the nation are impacted differently. Molly shared that job disruption due to automation is sometimes about job loss but is more often about change. Automation resilience means being flexible, adaptable, and focusing on transferable skills. Molly highlighted the risk factors for Southeast Indiana region as:

  • Manufacturing shifts
  • Under-representation in certain sectors
  • Gaps in healthcare talent base
  • 22%-34% postsecondary attainment rate
  • Net outmigration
  • 1 in 3 jobs at risk…in some counties, 2 in 3
  • Aging workforce
  • 18K+ workers in retail

Molly’s presentation highlighted strategies other communities are employing to prepare for the future of work and summarized the assets we have in Southeast Indiana. The information shared provided our region with both a call to action and with optimism that we can work together to prepare the region’s learning system to meet the skills required by the economy of the future.

New America Indianapolis is a National Network hub launched in 2017 to focus on the innovative grassroots solutions Hoosiers are developing to make the Circle City more livable, resilient, and equitable. New America is a national organization dedicated to renewing America by continuing the quest to realize our nation’s highest ideals, honestly confronting the challenges caused by rapid technological and social change and seizing the opportunities those changes create.

Participants discuss how a region prepares for the future

Twelve tables of participants summarized their discussions on questions such as, “What does a healthy regional system look like that prepares for the future of work?”. We learned there is much going on regionally and learning from each other is part of our challenge and opportunity going forward.  We see why it is important to be intentional in our understanding of how jobs are shifting, by industry, by gender, by education level.  There was optimism and realism in the feedback. With an understanding of the shifting landscape, looking through the lens of equity and leveraging our regional, collaborative relationships, we can remove barriers and create lifelong learning opportunities.  We expect a healthy system to lead to healthy workers and economic growth.

Regional partners share their approach

How Honda is preparing for the next era of manufacturing:  Alison Schreiner, with Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, stressed how “nothing can build a car like a human” and how automation is integrated into their vehicles as well as their work processes. Keeping their workforce up to date on the needed skills is an ongoing challenge, supported by providing structure and frameworks for understanding gaps and paths forward.

Preparing the incarcerated through education: Konnie McCollum and Brad Wood, from River Valley Resources, shared their approach to connecting men and women in prison with education opportunities leading to good paying jobs. Recidivism rates (return to jail or prison) are much lower when a person has a meaningful work that pays a living wage. Through their partnerships with educators, employers and community resources, they are enabling win/win growth opportunities.

Preparing community for demographic changes: Luz Elena Michel, with the Community Education Coalition, provided an update on her work supporting the Latino Education Group in Bartholomew County, and why the work is important to our region. Southeast Indiana’s Latino population has increased by 54.7% since 2009.  Latino students and adults may have language challenges and other barriers to academic success. The work of the Latino Education Group, led by Luz Elena, provides a community-based system of supports to increase academic outcomes for Latino middle and high school students. Luz Elena shared that through programs such as Latino College / Career Coaches, Latino Mentors, and a full calendar of workshops and events, the Latino Education Group is moving the needle to eliminate the equity gap in academic success for Latino students.