Preparing America For Middle-Skill Work

Anthony Carnevale, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, shares his views on the importance of middle-skill jobs to the U.S. economy, and the role community colleges play in putting students to work.

Q: Why are middle-skill jobs so important to growing the U.S. economy?

A: Almost a third—17 million out of 55 million—new job openings between 2010 and 2020 are going to require middle skills, as baby boomers retire and new jobs are created.

Middle-skill jobs are also important because they often pay middle-class wages. For example, 62 percent of middle-skill jobs pay $35,000 or more per year and 14 percent pay $75,000 or more. What’s even more striking is that middle-skill jobs can pay more than jobs for workers with bachelor’s degrees. For instance, 31 percent of entry-level associate-degree jobs and 27 percent of jobs requiring some form of licensure or certification pay more than entry-level BA positions.

Q: What makes community colleges the ideal institutions to train middle-skill workers?

A: Community colleges are ideally situated to provide both practical career and technical preparation as well as general learning. The mix of general academic learning and workforce preparation that is the unique signature of the nation’s community colleges can lead to both further education and learning on the job. Moreover, the community colleges’ mix of general competencies and workforce development allows students to live more fully in their time by becoming more active citizens and successful workers.

The inescapable reality is that ours is a society based on work. Those who are not equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to get, and keep, good jobs are denied the genuine social inclusion that is the real test of full citizenship. Those denied the education required for good jobs tend to drop out of the mainstream culture, polity and economy. It is crucial that community colleges retain their workforce mission. If community college educators cannot fulfill their economic mission to help youths and adults become successful workers, they also will fail in their cultural and political missions to create good neighbors, good citizens and self-possessed individuals who can live fully in their time.

Community colleges have for decades been doing what middle-skill workers need now: retraining the long-term unemployed, matching new graduates’ skill sets to job opportunities through internships and mentoring, serving regional geographic localities and training-up nontraditional students. These things form the backbone of the community college mandate.

The community colleges’ dual educational and workforce development missions provide institutes with a lot of room to grow, as well as an opportunity to flex their muscles as they already stand head and shoulders above the rest in the movement toward truly comprehensive postsecondary institutions. (Read more.)

Via Times Staff, Community College Times.

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In the Math of Education, Two Years Sometimes Is Worth More Than Four Years

Want a solid, middle-class salary straight out of college? Skip the last two years.

A site that analyzes state-level data of how much people earn a year after graduating college found some counter-intuitive results: Certain students who earn associate’s degrees can get higher salaries than graduates of four-year programs — sometimes thousands of dollars more.

“These numbers and the consistency of these numbers are surprising to me,” said Mark Schneider, president of College Measures.org and a vice president at the American Institutes for Research. College Measures aggregates anonymized education and earnings data to figure out who earns what after graduation.

Some of its results run counter to commonly-held assumptions. Community college degrees, long considered also-ran prizes in the race for academic achievement, “are worth a lot more than I expected and that I think other people expected,” Schneider said.

But there is a catch: You have to earn your degree in a technical or occupational program to earn anywhere near $40,000. That’s the approximate average earned by students who went to school and worked in the state of Virginia and graduated with two-year degrees in these fields between 2006 and 2010. Graduates of two-year nursing programs earned am average of $45,342. (Read more.)

Via Martha C. White, NBC News.

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What Does The “Skills Gap” Mean For Educators?

Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy and author of the ‘Top Performers’ blog on Education Week, recently wrote a post in response to a 60 Minutes segment called, “Three million jobs in U.S., but who’s qualified?” It reminded me of a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Achieve that provides specific information on the future of the U.S. workforce.

SHRM and Achieve surveyed more than 4,600 HR professionals this past spring from nine industries, including government; construction, mining, oil, and gas; healthcare; high tech; nonprofessional services; professional services; finance; and manufacturing. The findings were published in an October report, “The Future of the U.S. Workforce: A Survey of Hiring Practices across Industries.”

The report explains that even with today’s high unemployment numbers, employers are having a difficult time finding skilled and qualified workers for more than 3 million open jobs. SHRM and Achieve note, “There is much speculation about why this may be the case, but no matter the reason, the fact is employers are searching for employees with more training and skills than ever before–a trend that human resource (HR) professionals expect will continue in the future. This trend makes it incumbent on the United States to ensure that future generations have the academic and technical foundation needed to succeed in tomorrow’s economy and to mind that skills gap.”

The report’s major findings include: (Read more.)

Via Emily Douglas, Education Week.

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Sequestration Could Impact Over One Million CTE Students; Career Readiness Definition Released

CTE Monthly, a collaborative publication from the Association for Career and Technical Education and the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, features the latest news on Career Technical Education (CTE) from across the nation for CTE stakeholders and Members of Congress.

In the November edition, read more about:

  • Possible Impact of Sequestration on CTE Students
  • Career Readiness Partner Council Releases Definition of Career Readiness
  • Case Studies of Successful Business-Education Partnerships

Via Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager, CTE Blog.

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Employment Surges for Community College Grads

These days, there may be something more valuable to job seekers than a four-year college degree: a two-year college degree.

Employment for Americans with an associate’s degree or some college has increased by 578,000 the past six months to 35.2 million, while payrolls for those with at least a bachelor’s are up by just 314,000 to 46.5 million, Labor Department figures show.

The trend underlines that some of the midskill jobs that disappeared in the recession are coming back and it may signal more lasting growth in such occupations. They include operators of computerized factory machines, heating and air conditioning repair people, X-ray technicians, medical records specialists and low- to midlevel managers.

In recent years, “The share of these jobs has not grown (sharply) relative to (those requiring a bachelor’s),” says Anthony Carnevale, head of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “But they may have begun to do that.”

By contrast, employment for people with a high school diploma or less has been stagnant since 2010, after plummeting in the downturn. <Read more.>

Via Paul Davidson, USAToday.

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