The education and skills required for a good job and the pathways to those jobs have changed in recent years. Today the majority of jobs require at least some postsecondary education, compared to the post-World War II decade of the ‘50s. Then most workers in the industrial economy could find a good job with a high school diploma or less. Today there is more than one way to obtain a good job, and the level of education a worker has is a key to the opportunities that are available.
Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce recently released a report that compares job opportunities available to workers with different levels of education. Three Educational Pathways to Good Jobs defines a good job as one that pays at least $35,000 for workers age 25-44 and $45,000 for workers age 45-64. Good job salaries average $56,000 for workers with less than a bachelor’s degree, average $65,000 for workers with a bachelor’s or higher.
The report says there are three pathways to good jobs: high school, middle skills and bachelor’s degrees:
• High school pathway includes workers with a high school diploma or less
• Middle-skills pathway includes worker with post-secondary education less than a bachelor’s degree
• Bachelor’s pathway includes workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Even though the report outlines three pathways, it is clear that the most opportunity lies in the middle-skill or bachelor’s pathways. Georgetown CEW says that the high school pathway provides 20 percent of all good jobs and the number of jobs in this pathway is not increasing. Instead, “globalization, automation, upskilling and a shift to skilled services have made postsecondary education and training the dominant pathway to good jobs.”
Middle skill pathways include certificates, certifications, licenses and associate degrees. Middle-skill opportunities include 24 percent of all good jobs, and opportunities at this level are growing, the report states.
The middle-skills pathway is shifting to technical jobs and skilled services such as information technology and healthcare. Middle-skill workers often need problem-solving and critical thinking skills for the tasks included in their jobs. Even manufacturing jobs have changed, have become more technical. Jobs that have been staffed by someone with a high school diploma, years ago, require more education now, says Dr. Fred E. Wood, chancellor, Contra Costa Community College District in northern California. “Jobs have changed. Employers need more skills than a high school diploma. Employers are saying they need more workers with middle skills.”
The bachelor’s pathway, as defined by Georgetown CEW, includes bachelor’s master’s professional and doctoral degrees. Fifty-six percent of all good jobs require education from this pathway, and job growth is strongest at this level. These jobs include professions that may include graduate and post-graduate degrees such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and accountants.
Postsecondary education, whether at middle-skill or bachelor’s level or higher, equips workers with skills they need for today’s work. “Workers now need deeper knowledge in their fields and also a broader set of general problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to perform new tasks,” the Georgetown report states. Today, manufacturing workers need advanced skills and deeper knowledge to produce customized products. Service industry workers, such as those in healthcare and financial service, must have deep knowledge to personalize their service to meet their clients’ needs.
Postsecondary education is the key for people who seek new positions or advancement in their field. It is necessary for workers who want greater responsibility, and job security. “Labor force participation and ongoing education are increasingly intermingled,” says Credly director of education and workforce strategies Brenda Perea.
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