Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Southern workforce index

Yesterday the Southern Growth Policies Board released its 2005 Southern Workforce Index. I’ve found no coverage in today’s papers. The Southern Workforce Index examines fifteen indicators that “taken together, provide a rich, broadly based portrait of the region’s workforce.” Taken individually, these indicators show how well states are doing as they develop their current and future workforce. The report focuses on three fronts: 1) developing “institutional seamlessness” (organization of educational institutions to provide the kind of job training necessary for the kinds of jobs available); 2) avoiding “wasted human capital” (ensuring that no individuals or populations fall through the cracks regardless of “race, ethnicity, age, gender and disability”); 3) promoting a “self-directed workforce” (encouraging development of a workforce that takes responsibility for its own continued professional development and stays up to date with necessary skills training). Factors considered range from percentage of ninth to sixteenth grade completion rates to four-year high school graduation rates to incarceration rates and disparity in unemployment between white and black males. A few examples of Louisiana’s performance relative to the South and the United States as whole are listed below: 9th-16th GRADE COMPLETION [measures “the percent of 9th graders that a) graduate from high school in four years; b) immediately enroll in college; c) earn an associate’s degree in four years or less or earn a bachelor’s degree in six years or less.”] Louisiana: 13% South: 16% United States: 18% HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION RATE Louisiana: 59% South: 62% United States: 66% INCARCERATION PER 100,000 RESIDENTS Louisiana: 794 South: 515 United States: 476 UNEMPLOYMENT DISPARITY BETWEEN BLACK AND WHITE MALES [the study notes, “real black male unemployment rates are masked by rising incarceration rates. Men who otherwise would be counted as unemployed are actually incarcerated.”] Louisiana: 349% South: 176% United States: 202% **Interpreting these numbers: More than 3 times as many black males in Louisiana are unemployed as white. The actual number is almost certainly higher given the state’s very high incarceration rates. What the statistics highlighted here – and considered fully in the aforementioned report – indicate is that although Louisiana is addressing issues of educational and workforce development, the state still has a long, long way to go before it stops wasting the most valuable resource of all: human capital.