Advancing technology and changes in job requirements have impacted US workers for the past couple decades. And this impact will continue. As technology evolves workers face the need for increased digital skills. As businesses use technology to gather more data, workers need to develop analytical skills. Developing in-demand skills and attaining higher education will make it possible for workers to feel increased financial and workplace security.
Almost 40 percent of current jobs in America are in job categories that could shrink between now and 2030. But even as some job categories shrink, the US economy should continue to grow and create new jobs, says the McKinsey Global Institute The future of work in America report. However, the workplace will look different for many American workers. “The occupational mix of the economy is evolving and could do so at an even faster pace in the decade ahead. While employment in categories such as office support and food service may decline, our scenario suggests strong job growth in healthcare, STEM occupations, creatives and arts management, and business services.”
Changes in occupations and the workplace are impacting Americans’ feelings of financial and workplace security. Champlain College conducted a survey of 1,004 US Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, to ask how secure they felt about finances and their jobs. The answers respondents gave to questions shows that higher education has an impact on how people feel about their current lives and their prospects for the future.
Americans don’t have financial and workplace security even with low unemployment rates and jobs waiting to be filled. Only 8 percent said they were very financially secure and 48 percent of respondents said they feel somewhat or very insecure. Attaining higher education is one factor that can help relieve financial anxiety. The Champlain survey shows that financial security is higher among people who have attained postsecondary education: 51 percent of adults with a master’s degree or higher said they were somewhat or very secure. Only 23 percent of adults with a high school diploma or less felt this way.
Financial and workplace security both correlate to levels of higher education attainment. Bachelor’s degrees are required for many jobs today, even at a starting level. People who have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher have more career options than those with lower levels of education. The Champlain survey shows that more career options translate to feelings of financial and workplace security: 57 percent of people with a bachelor’s degree and 66 percent with a master’s degree said they felt secure. Only 43 percent of people with a high school diploma felt this way.
Pursuing postsecondary and higher education is a necessity for people who need to advance their skills and who want to increase their feelings of financial and workplace security. Michael Kelly, executive director of the Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy & Jobs says, “Job displacement due to automation and general rapid change will only accelerate, requiring people to reskill for new jobs. The need to re-skill at various points in life will only intensify.” More than half of adults without degrees say they are likely to pursue more education in the future. Their greatest reasons for enrolling are a job placement or a wage increase.
In spite of the need for higher education and continual re-skilling throughout their career, there are obstacles facing workers. Going back to school or continuing their education requires a financial commitment, one that may be difficult for nontraditional students. Nontraditional students often have financial demands because of their family responsibilities or prior student debt. More than a quarter of working Americans say that even though they need to acquire additional education they cannot afford it.
Employer education benefits present a solution for these workers and the employers who need them to acquire new skills. Tuition assistance can ease the financial burden of paying higher education or skills training expenses. Student loan assistance can help workers weighed down by student debt engage in continual learning to stay current in their occupation. For businesses, providing education benefits will result in a workforce that is skilled, productive and ready to take on new challenges. For employees, education benefits increase financial and workplace security.
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