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County offers range of career opportunities

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Local manufacturers who make auto parts and other devices continue to add jobs, but more residents are working as teachers, nurses and in social work.

Manufacturing is the second-largest career field in Johnson County, employing 14 percent of the county’s nearly 70,000 workers. But that rate is down from more than five years ago, when as many as 17 percent of residents worked in that field. Statewide, 19 percent of workers have jobs in manufacturing.

Right now, the leading careers locally are in education, health care and social assistance. The percentage of workers in those fields is growing — 22 percent of workers in 2012, up from about 19 percent in 2005, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Johnson County’s six public school districts employ more than 1,300 teachers. That figure doesn’t include assistants, cooks, maintenance workers, bus drivers and administrators.

In health care, Franciscan St. Francis Health-Indianapolis, just north of the county line, has about 2,900 employees, while Johnson Memorial Hospital has 794 employees, hospital officials said. Sixty-seven percent of Johnson Memorial’s employees, or about 530 people, are from Johnson County, spokesman Bill Oakes said.

Educated workforce vital

Workers have been able to find jobs in manufacturing after the expansions of companies such as KYB, Mitsubishi and Endress+Hauser.

One reason the percentage of workers in manufacturing is down is productivity in that industry has been increasing, meaning fewer workers are putting out more products, Ball State University economics professor Michael Hicks said.

One sign of economic health for the county is the workforce isn’t dependent on a single industry and is spread across health care, education, retail and construction, Indiana Business Research Center economic analyst Matt Kinghorn and Johnson County Development Corp. president Cheryl Morphew said.

In the next few years, Morphew said, the county needs to find additional ways to market itself to health care and defense industries looking for places in the Midwest to set up and expand. Hicks said the area should appeal to job creators, specifically because of the quality of the schools.

“If you have a really well-educated labor force, if you have households that are well educated, that’s going to attract, in turn, the businesses that will support that population,” Hicks said.

Part of what makes Johnson County appealing to businesses is its proximity to interstates 65, 70 and 465, meaning companies can quickly ship products throughout the Midwest, Morphew and Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

The area is also near Indiana University, Purdue University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, meaning companies won’t have to go far to find college graduates with engineering and other valuable degrees, Morphew said.

Attractive features

The county also has an advantage because of its proximity to several central Indiana hospitals and Camp Atterbury. Morphew said area school districts can help attract jobs to the area by learning more about the kinds of skills defense and health care industries want college and high school graduates to have and finding ways to incorporate those lessons into students’ classes.

The counties that have the best chance of attracting new businesses will be the ones with affordable housing and schools that are growing and have proved they’re preparing students for the workforce. Right now, that includes Johnson County, Hicks said.

Both Center Grove and Clark-Pleasant schools had more students enrolled this school year, and students at both school districts have had high scores on standardized tests such as ISTEP. School officials, as well as officials at the Central Nine Career Center, have been trying to collaborate and work closer with businesses in and around Johnson County so they can be sure they’re preparing students to be able to find a job after graduation.

That’s appealing to the head of a company who’s considering moving or expanding their Chicago-based business near Indianapolis. Employees will feel better that their children will receive a quality education, and the employers also know students will have the kinds of skills they’ll need to be able to work in those businesses one day, Hicks said.

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