Posted on 01/19/2018 at 02:49 PM by Blog Experts

Gene Bottoms, Senior Vice President, Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Kirsten Sundell, Director, Product Development & Communications, Career Pathways, SREB, August 2016

“Career pathways and college-ready academics have the power to move more students into the deeper end of the employment pool — and into the middle class.  Since the 1970s, the United States has seen a steady rise in the education needed for a good job. In 1973, 72 percent of all jobs were held by individuals with a high school diploma or less, and 28 percent were held by those with some college. Forty-some years later, our educational and economic landscapes have undergone a seismic shift: In 2016, just 34 percent of all jobs filled since 2010 were held by workers with high school diplomas or less; 65 percent of jobs went to people with associate and bachelor’s degrees.

Where is the economy adding jobs? High-wage professional and technical jobs in health care and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are in high demand. So too are managerial and professional office jobs. Middle-wage jobs — those requiring some college or an associate degree — are on the rise in business, education, community services, and such “blue-collar” fields as welding, automotive and industrial technology, and highway maintenance. Many new low-wage jobs are in food service, health care, office support, personal services and retail. Low-wage jobs offering good growth and mobility are found in fields like construction, manufacturing, and transportation, distribution and logistics.

Across every industry, individuals need a mix of skills to secure middle- and high-wage jobs. The Business Roundtable convened leading employers to discuss what they look for when hiring. Business leaders described personal skills, like dependability and professionalism, as well as people skills, like the ability to function on a team and communicate well. Workplace skills include the ability to plan, organize and make decisions carefully and use tools and technologies with ease. Finally, business leaders cited a strong need for applied knowledge — the foundational literacy, math, science and critical-thinking skills to adapt in the workplace.

As a result, many young people are leaving school unprepared for the rigors of college or the demands of the workplace.

A large percentage of those who do enroll in college end up stuck in remedial studies — about 50 percent of first-year community college students test into at least one developmental reading or math course. Many of these students will never finish a certificate or degree. SREB’s Commission on Community Colleges reports that, among students assigned to more than one remedial course, less than 10 percent will complete a credential or degree.

Without further education, many young people will spend their 20s in a succession of low-level jobs — or unemployed.

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