Success story: Shyanne Harmon, a respiratory therapist at Union Hospital, was helped as a student by the resources of WorkOne. Here, she poses for a photo in the hospital on Friday. Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza
Success story: Shyanne Harmon, a respiratory therapist at Union Hospital, was helped as a student by the resources of WorkOne. Here, she poses for a photo in the hospital on Friday. Tribune-Star/Joseph C. Garza
Life changed quickly for Shyanne Harmon in her senior year of high school in Sullivan County.

“It was rough. I found out I got accepted to Indiana University and Purdue [University] like a week before I found out I was pregnant. I was pregnant my whole senior year, but I was pretty academically driven and I kept up with my studies, graduating in the [top] 10% of my class” in high school, said Harmon, whose maiden name is Brown.

She graduated from high school in May 2014 and gave birth to her daughter in June 2015. “At the time I was with a guy whose mom was a respiratory therapist and she ended up being mother-in-law for a little bit. I got to job shadow her right out of high school. “I knew I wanted to do medical, but not necessarily nursing, so I explored other areas,” Harmon said. A teacher at her high school pointed her to WorkOne, which helped her with gas vouchers as she went onto attend Ivy Tech Community College.

She attended Ivy Tech for a year and in June 2015, got accepted into a respiratory therapy program, which took her 2-1/2 years to complete, graduating in 2017.

She then worked full time at Terre Haute Regional Hospital and switched to Union Hospital in 2019. WorkOne, she said, “not only had financial support, with gas vouchers but WorkOne helped pay for my (state certification) test. They also reached out to me, asking if I needed anything and checking on me. I think also accountability, reminding me I could do a good job and could complete” the respiratory therapy program, Harmon said.

Harmon, 27, remarried in 2021 and lives in Terre Haute.

Now, WorkOne is seeking to help women who have been impacted from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a new program (started in late August) so we have not had anyone go all through it yet,” said Lisa Lee, executive director of Western Indiana Workforce Development Board, Inc. Work One covers Vigo, Clay, Vermillion and Sullivan counties. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, there are nearly 2 million fewer women in the workforce since February 2020. Women exited the workforce to care for children, home school, or care for elderly family members during the pandemic.

“As much as anything it is a call to action,” Lee said, “because as you look at our labor force numbers for our six county region, we still have almost 3,000 people who have not returned to the workforce since June of 2019 before the pandemic,” Lee said.

“And if you look at our 3.6% unemployment rate, that translates into more than 3,400 people. During the pandemic, the service industries, retail trade, accommodations and food service were among the hardest hit. They were the first to close and in many case the last to open,” Lee said. “Those sectors were really dominated by female workers, so females were hit hard.

Also when you look at child and elderly care, in today’s society women are still charged with most of those duties,” Lee said. “And on top of that, men still make more than women on an hourly basis. Nationwide in 2019, for every dollar a man made, a woman made 82 cents and that was 77 cents in Indiana,” Lee said.

Yet Lee said women can re-enter the workforce in other sectors, as there are many in-demand positions which do not require a four-year degree, in areas such as manufacturing, construction and health care sectors. Many jobs pay near or above $20 an hour. “We can help with career advising ... some people do not have an idea of where to find information on a career pathway and wages. We can conduct interest inventories to see what people are interested in and their aptitudes,” Lee said. “We also plan to hold leadership workshops to help them identify their skills and strengths and job coping skills,” Lee said, “plus decision making, things that will help build confidence before they get started.”

WorkOne, Lee said, is also planning to hold job fairs aimed at the trades and attracting women in the coming months.

“Obviously, we are equal-opportunity, so anyone can participate,” Lee said. “If you look at supply and demand, we have huge demand and just need more people going into the workforce.”
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