Education key to challenges of recession

Our opinion
May 2, 2012

When George Will visited Bloomington last week to participate in Ivy Tech Community College’s O’Bannon Institute on Public Service, he predicted a rough ride ahead for the nation’s economy.

His reasons were at the federal level — things such as unsustainable entitlements, runaway health care costs — and will result in millions of words on Capitol Hill in the next six months.

But he also said he is not totally pessimistic.

“Things, I think, are going to get better. We are not Bangladesh. We can get better by choosing to get better. We can get better by choosing to make better choices.”

He said while 200 years ago, a great source of wealth in this nation was land, the source of wealth today is knowledge that comes from education.

The general sentiment is shared by experts interviewed for our series of stories called “Recession and the New Reality” that is ending today. The stories outlined many of the challenges that have plagued our regional economy in the last five years and highlighted some of the statistics that show the recession is still not over. They also noted that Monroe and surrounding counties were not hit as hard as much of the rest of the state and nation.

Looking forward, our sources agreed, the keys to success in the economic arena will include the ability to learn and adapt to changing needs of employers — and society.

One source, IU economist Jerry Conover, said the evidence is clear that educational attainment leads to better economic opportunity.

“Education — formal or informal, is key to keeping a job and finding new jobs,” he told the H-T’s Bill Strother.

And doing well on standardized tests is far from good enough. Gone are the days when a concrete set of skills or knowledge is all you need for a career.

“What companies need today are individuals who are prepared to communicate well and to think critically,” said John Whikehart, chancellor of the Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington campus. “(The worker of the future) will probably make three career changes in their lifetime and may end up with seven jobs in those careers.

“Young people, students in school, just need to understand that it’s going to require more education and training than just completing high school. We have to move past that. That’s absolutely critical.”

The recession forced that way of thinking onto thousands of people who lost the jobs for which they had been trained. Our stories introduced readers to a few of those individuals.

The picture painted by Will at the Ivy Tech event was of a future where a lot more people are going to see their bank statements and career paths rocked because of forces outside of their control. They can address the uncertainty of what’s ahead through education, training and the ability to adapt to the seismic shifts in our nation’s and region’s economic stability.

Kevin Wagner, of Bedford, is going back to school at Ivy Tech Community College after being laid off from Sims Poultry after 23 years of service in Bloomington. Chris Howell | Herald-Times

Copyright: 2012


About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.