Add Your Heading Text Here

In 2024, Sagamore Institute will celebrate its 20th Anniversary and, as part of that celebration, along with the recent appointment of Teresa Lubbers as its new President, will recommit to and expand upon its role in workforce and education policy. The centerpiece of that work will be the continuation of the Workforce series, started by Hudson Institute, that has helped predict some of the greatest challenges to America’s workforce and recommended key policies, that if followed, could have helped avoid many of the challenges that we face today. Workforce 2040: Pathways to Prosperity will examine key workforce trends that will challenge our economy, particularly for the Heartland states surrounding the Great Lakes, and with a special focus on our home state of Indiana. 

The Workforce Legacies

Like its predecessors, Workforce 2000 and Workforce 2020, Workforce 2040 will examine demographic trends, including:  the make-up of the population over the next two decades; the nature of work and influence of technology advancements; and the impact of globalization on jobs.  Most importantly, we will craft several potential scenarios and accompanying strategies that can help our state (and our neighboring states) to survive and even thrive in those coming changes. 

It is a bold goal; but we have actually done it before – with success. Workforce 2020 projected much of what we are experiencing today, trends that were accelerated by the global pandemic (something that we did not project in Workforce 2020).  First, the rising and rapid pace of technology causing massive disruption of certain sectors – simultaneously creating exciting new jobs while displacing others and changing the nature of work.  The rise of what we then called “free agency” in employment options, and the retirements of millions of baby boomers causing massive and severe labor shortages.  It also foreshadowed particularly adverse effects on men in the labor force, as well as income disparities among various population groups that we predicted would occur unless significant improvements were made in America’s education and workforce development systems.

Unfortunately, as we are learning, America did not sufficiently prepare for these realities; and the projections that the authors of Workforce 2020 made in 1997 are proving true.  The unexpected pandemic has certainly exacerbated our challenges.  But even before that surprising development, we were witnessing an incremental approach and resulting trends that Workforce 2020 had predicted. 

Today's Future State

Today, in the years following COVID, we find ourselves in a recovery mode, but without the underlying changes that could have helped accelerate our rebound.  Much like the rest of the nation, Indiana is experiencing the adverse effects of that inaction:

Steep declines in K-12 education achievement with particular impacts on low-income students.

Declines in the numbers of both young people and older adults pursuing post-secondary education.

Decrease in labor force participation among the general population.

Compounding issues that hamper education progress and attainment increasing income disparities.

A hampered economy as thousands of jobs go unfilled due to the lack of qualified workers.

States are preparing some immediate responses to these issues through the legislative process. What Sagamore can do, as a leading state-based think tank, is look beyond the immediate needs, to look also at future trends, and to develop scenarios and policy options that address the structural changes that are necessary for long-term success. 

The Scenario Approach

The focus of the Workforce 2040 initiative will be on “scenario building,” which is a proven and effective approach to describing elements of the future, building multiple paths for addressing the future state, identifying threats to each potential path, and helping identify the most promising policy options. 

Importantly, data sits at the core of all of this work, starting with a dispassionate assessment of the current state so that it is clear what levers or conditions might need to change to meet the demands of the future state.  At least three scenarios will be presented to describe the likely future:  do nothing to address the challenges; make moderate adjustments; make systemic structural changes. 

The scenarios will address such issues as: given the makeup of the population, what might happen to enrollment in postsecondary education and how should policy makers respond; if education attainment remains low and gaps persist by race and ethnic groups, what are the implications on education and the development of the workforce;  if enrollments continue to decline in higher education, what is the future of our smaller colleges in the state and what might be done for them to survive or even thrive; how is technology likely to advance and what impact might that have on the nature of jobs and work, and how do those technology evolutions affect education and workforce programming; if labor force participation continues to decline, what is the likely impact on the economy; what will be the income disparity if education and workforce participation trends continue?

The products of this work, including the public rollout of specific scenarios, will begin to roll out in the latter half of 2023, continue through 2024, including a final report and specific recommendations.