Forecast: Indiana’s workforce will need “human skills”

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Start-up team with face mask in a project meeting (Adobe Stock)

(Mary Schuermann Kuhlman/Indiana News Service) – An Indianapolis-based expert said uniquely human traits and capabilities will be more important in the post-COVID work landscape.

Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation, is author of a new book on the future of the workforce.

He said by some estimates, 40% of jobs that saw COVID-related layoffs aren’t coming back.

He contends higher levels of education and the skills and attributes they help people develop, including empathy, the ability to communicate, and problem-solving, prepare workers to adapt to the changes in the workplace, now and in the future.

“For workers who are looking at job loss right now, being able to get back into the learning environment, building your skillset and being able to develop those skills will better position you for this environment of change going forward,” Merisotis advised.

Merisotis encouraged employers to embrace diversity and define the knowledge, skills and abilities their workers need. He added policymakers should better address racial inequity and provide incentives and funding for employers to help workers continually upgrade their skills.

Jason Bearce, vice president for education and workforce development at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said businesses emphasize workplace culture, and the human skills workers need to communicate as part of a team.

“One of the best ways for individuals to develop and hone those employability skills is to learn on the job,” Bearce stated. “There are things that you can’t learn from a book, and you can’t learn in a classroom. They’re only going to learn by interacting and engaging with other professionals in a work environment.”

new survey from the chamber shows job shadowing, college internships, apprenticeships and other work-based learning opportunities in Indiana have increased significantly this year compared with 2019.

Bearce said more than half of businesses indicate they changed recruitment practices to focus on worker skills and competency rather than strictly education level or credentials.

“It’s going to be incumbent upon not just employers but individuals to think differently about how they market themselves, not in a necessarily industry-specific way,” Bearce noted. “But what are those foundational skills that cut across industries, like project management, critical thinking, effective communication.”

The survey found 40% of Indiana businesses plan to increase their workforce over the next two years, down from 45% in 2019 and 56% in 2018.

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