COVID-19’s wide-ranging effects have laid bare and heightened many of the inequalities that have long persisted in our society, including in the workforce and in education. Compounded with systemic racial barriers and an uncertain future economic outlook, significant obstacles stand in the way for many Hoosiers who seek to maintain or advance their careers.
For health and safety reasons due to the pandemic, much of the workforce moved to a remote setting, cutting the risk of contracting the virus in half, according to the CDC. However, workers with jobs that require in-person duties are more likely to be low-income, non-white, an immigrant, or lack a post-secondary credential. In many circumstances, minorities and those with less education have been forced to choose between their safety and job security this past year.
In addition to workforce inequities, the pandemic has exacerbated the digital divide with many basic needs migrated online. While 666,000 people in Indiana live without proper connection, Black and Latinx families with school-aged children are more than twice as likely to lack internet access as white families. This gap in internet access also hinders access to education and the growth potential of the state’s future workforce.
One key solution to these inequities is increasing access to education for Hoosiers. By doing so, we are able to address the workforce inequities and economic disparities that have been heightened by the pandemic. And despite the time, cost and technology needed to further your education, affordable online degree programs, like those provided by WGU Indiana, do exist and are specifically geared toward those who want to expand their career opportunities, but are not well-served by a traditional experience.
Together with Regional Director K.L. Allen, WGU Indiana recognizes that the pandemic and systemic racism are inextricably linked. Prioritizing access to education and workforce development opportunities is one important and necessary step toward a more equitable workforce and a stronger economy.
Read K.L.’s op-ed with Indianapolis Business Journal for more.