Vt: More jobs are in need of an educated workforce
By Bruce Edwards
STAFF WRITER | July 14,2013
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Vermont can expect to see 132,000 job openings this decade — jobs that will require education and training beyond high school, according to a national report.
The report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce predicted the following Vermont industries would experience the strongest growth:
Professional, scientific and technical services: 38 percent.
Administrative and support, and waste management and remediation services: 33 percent.
Health care and social assistance: 25 percent.
Within those industries, health care support jobs are expected to increase 27 percent; STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), 25 percent; health care professional and technical, 24 percent; social sciences, 24 percent.
Nationally, the number of jobs will increase by 24 million to 165 million by 2020.
For job seekers, the report emphasized the importance of education. Four out of five of the fastest-growing occupations — health care professionals, STEM, education, and community services — will require high levels of post-secondary education. The one exception is health care support, where only 59 percent of jobs will require post-secondary education.
To meet the jobs challenge, technical centers at some Vermont high schools, such as Rutland and Essex, are preparing students for more advanced training, available at Vermont Technical College in Randolph, the University of Vermont in Burlington, Green Mountain College in Poultney and other Vermont institutions.
Stafford Technical Center, associated with Rutland High School, will launch its own two-year STEM Academy program next year.
Lyle Jepson, Stafford’s director, said the Georgetown report is consistent with what employers are seeking from job applicants.
“I don’t think we can say any longer that you can come out of school with a high school diploma and get a job that will sustain yourself and your family in a way that would be comfortable,” Jepson said.
He added that the need for skilled workers will become more acute with the graying of the workforce.
Fieh Chen, a math teacher who is leading the STEM program at Stafford, said his advisory board is made up of representatives from GE Aviation, Omya, Green Mountain Power and other companies.
“We really wanted to look for a program that we could create that would give students … the skills they need to enter a two- and four-year program after high school to become technicians or engineers,” Chen said.
Stafford STEM graduates will be eligible to receive two certifications, including one certification that comes with 12 transferable credits recognized by the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Students with advanced training can go on to high-paying jobs.
For example, Chen said students who earn a two-year degree in their chosen field from Vermont Technical College can expect to earn up to $45,000 a year. A four-year college graduate can earn up to $80,000 a year.
Technician and engineering jobs will be in demand in areas including aerospace, civil, mechanical, electrical and mechanical engineering.
The report noted that at the current level of people seeking post-secondary education, the country “will fall 5 million short of workers with post-secondary credentials we will need by 2010.”
By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in Vermont will require a post-secondary education, which is on par with the rest of the country.
That’s in contrast to 1973 when “workers with post-secondary education held only 28 percent of jobs” nationwide, according to the study. That same year, high school graduates and those without a high school diploma together held 72 percent of all jobs in the U.S. By 2020, that number will have been cut in half to 36 percent.
The 14-page executive summary said leadership, communications and analysis skills are the most valued by employers. That also includes mathematical knowledge as “being important or very important to success.”
Nicole Smith, a senior economist with the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, said the nation is falling behind in the number of post-secondary graduates.
“We’ve been creating jobs that require more post-secondary education at a faster rate than we’ve been creating the students with the post-secondary education and training,” Smith said.
Smith said the problem is compounded when students graduate with degrees that don’t meet the needs of employers.
Among the segment of the population that will lead the U.S. workforce in the decades to come, the U.S. lags many other industrialized countries. Smith cited a report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that said among 25-to-34 year olds, the U.S. ranks 14th in the world in post-secondary degrees at 40 percent. Korea is ranked first at 62 percent.
In Vermont, of the projected 132,000 job openings through the end of the decade, 57,000 will be new jobs and 75,000 will open up due to retirements.
Total Vermont employment is projected to increase 17 percent (between 2010 and 2020) from 340,000 to 397,000 jobs. The report said the percentage increase is on par with the national average.
For Vermont and the rest of the country, Smith said she has concerns related to the rapid growth in health care support jobs.
She said those jobs suffer from two major problems: One is that “there are no clearly defined career pathways that really take you from support to professional jobs in health care.” The other is that the “wages in health care support are just stagnant,” she said.
Not all jobs are forecast to see robust growth.
The report found that Vermont will see the weakest job growth in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry, up just 1 percent. Among specific occupations, by the end of the decade blue-collar jobs will see the slowest growth, increasing 12 percent.
Smith said the loss of blue collar manufacturing jobs nationwide can be traced to automation resulting in increased productivity.
In the late 1970s, she said each worker contributed $100,000 in output to their industry. In 2010, Smith said that with fewer workers that output had tripled to $300,000 per worker. Manufacturing now accounts for 10 to 11 percent of the workforce compared to 30 percent in the late 1960s, Smith said.