Career-Education Linkages, Part 2

Posted on July 4, 2011
by FeliciaOctocog

Sorry, it has taken me so long to get Part 2 up on the blog.  Running a non-profit program is not easy these days. With a constant hunt for money, planning for growth, assuring quality of programs, recruiting students, staff and volunteers, I don’t seem to have as much time to keep the blog up to date but I promise to try harder.

In Part I of  Career-Education linkages, I talked about the forgotten fifty – the 50% of our kids that do not go on to any post-secondary education (38% here in Essex County).  I discussed these students’ disconnect with an education that seems irrelevant and boring.  This segment of disengaged teens could be re-engaged in their education if they could relate what they learn to what they do or hope to do.  So Part II talks about where the jobs will be here on the North Shore of Massachusetts as a way to inform our schools on where some of our educational resources might be focused.

You have to have your head in the sand if you have not read the increasing number of news articles about our high-tech and bio-tech manufacturing companies that can’t find trained employees to do the higher paying jobs. What! 7.8% unemployment here and they are not lined up to do the jobs?

At a recent meeting with the President of Salem State University and several leaders of the tech industries, the discussion centered around the need for the colleges to step in to help train students for the highly skilled jobs of today and tomorrow.  This will require schools to invest heavily in new equipment, maintain faculty that is trained on only the most current technology and have the willingness to focus human and financial resources on technical education in addition to liberal arts.

So where are our growth industries?  Here on the North Shore, the predominant job areas include health care, construction, durable manufacturing, retail, financial services, hospitality and food services. Growth areas are in health care and life sciences.  Most of the jobs in these sectors require some college.  The jobs that require some post-secondary education have changed in the last 30 years.  Since 1973, the number of jobs available to high school drop outs dropped from 32% to only 11% – this reflects the drop in unskilled labor in our manufacturing sectors (note these are national numbers).  Jobs available to High school graduates also dropped from 40% to 30%. Jobs requiring some college more than doubled from 28% to 59%.  Notice the category, some college, no degree – this was a category that did not even exist 30 years ago – this category reflects certificate and apprenticeship programs.

In the North Shore WIB’s 2010 regional jobs blueprint, they report that the bulk of the jobs that will be opening as the recession eases are what they call middle skill jobs, those requiring an associates degree or certificates.  Middle skills jobs are lab techs, medical techs, assistants, nurse assistants, manufacturing and engineering technicians. Across all the growth factors in our regional economy, this report emphasizes the need for technical and technology skills as well as foundational skills in core academic areas as well as performance skills such as communication and critical thinking and, finally soft skills such as customer service and work ethic.

So for the jobs that will be opening up here on the North Shore, we need to prepare our young people for some post-secondary pathway – certificate/apprenticeship, 2-year degree or 4 year degree. In addition they need solid foundation skills, technology skills and performance skills.

The WIB Blueprint estimates that middle skill jobs will represent 45% of the job openings but only 32% of the population today holds the skills to perform those jobs.

There is tremendous opportunity for more tech education at high school and community colleges. It may even be a space that 4-year colleges may want to venture in to as part of its adult education programs.

The challenge, of course, will be to avoid tracking students one way or the other and to eliminate the stigma associated with vocational tracks.