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THE job statistics reported for the Columbus area in the August employment report issued by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development were likely a source of envy in many communities around the state.
Although the 5.5 percent unemployment rate was nowhere near the record low rates posted in bygone years, it was a full 2 percent below the overall state average and significantly lower than the averages in neighboring communities.
What would cause the deepest shade of red in other communities is that employers provided jobs to 40,549 people in Bartholomew County in August, shattering a record that had stood since 1998.
The additional hiring was largely fueled by major workforce increases among local companies, led by Cummins Inc. and Sunright America.
The total number of jobs is somewhat misleading when compared with the 5.5 percent unemployment rate, but local observers note that it is a reflection of a growing concern among employers. They have jobs available but can’t find enough workers who have the necessary skills to fill them.
What’s more, there will likely be more jobs available when expansion plans under way at a number of local locations are completed.
Those harsh realities are a major motivating force for the continuing effort by local leaders in the public and private sectors to encourage area residents to avail themselves of educational opportunities that will make them more employable.
This community has an edge on many of its neighbors because of programs that are tailored to that end, but it is vital that residents at all levels take advantage of the opportunities they have.
The push for improving educational levels is not limited to one segment. Strong efforts have been mounted to develop and improve early childhood education. Leaders in education and industry are striving to increase the number of adults holding college degrees to 60 percent.
Job category needs listed by employers at the second annual Ed Fest on Sept. 19 gave a clear indication of the gap between those needs and the candidates able to meet them.
The educational initiatives that have been launched through the leadership of the Community Education Coalition will take time to yield measurable results, but the needs of employers are immediate.
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