Even as our economy is slowly recovering, these are still troubling times for many who are, or soon will be, looking for work. I can imagine that young people who are graduating from Perry Hall High School this week are anxiously hoping that business activity will pick up enough by the time they will be looking for good-paying jobs.
In the meantime, these soon-to-be grads and other job-seekers should seek out a competitive advantage so their resumes stand out from the crowd of others vying for work. Getting training in occupation or industry-specific skills has a proven history of both helping people successfully gain employment and garnering higher wages. This is because, even with today's high unemployment, the need for a highly educated, highly skilled cadre of workers is more pressing than ever. Many employers still are having difficulty finding skilled workers for vacancies.
The following statistics puts this need into perspective: nationally, between 2000 and 2015, at least 85 percent of newly created jobs will require education and/or training beyond a high school diploma. Here in Maryland, current middle and high skilled jobs make up the largest portion of current work opportunities—about 77 percent—with a diminished need for lower skilled workers, at about 24 percent.
Workers who possess what are often referred to as "middle-skills" (training or education beyond high school, but not a bachelor's degree) and high-skills (at least a bachelor's degree) generally earn more money and have lower unemployment than workers who only have a high school diploma. This is most true for individuals who gain a certificate of some other industry-recognized credential, which shows prospective employers exactly what skill sets a job-seeker has.
There is a growing movement at the state and national level that recognizes the importance of helping the millions of Americans who are presently unemployed in getting the training required to up-skill them for jobs in the new economy. Several years ago, I had the pleasure of participating in one such project, conducted by the National Governors Association, which sought to promote the use of training that would offer skills to workers seeking employment in defined industry sectors.
Maryland's team ultimately used our findings as a springboard to launch a statewide skills training/sector strategies initiative, now referred to as "Skills2Compete Maryland." S2C offers an appropriate framework for the
promotion of career-focused education and training programs. There are numerous programs—offered by educational institutions, non-profits, and skilled trades groups—that allow participants to receive access to effective academic and employment training needed in order to obtain the industry-recognized credentials necessary for quality job opportunities. State policymakers continue to explore ways to broaden the reach of these types of programs.
While immediate job creation would certainly help in the short-term, targeted job training is essential to creating a skilled workforce for the long-term. Occupational and educational skills training programs do not in themselves create jobs, but they do position our citizens and communities to be poised to join in the emerging economic recovery.
Share your career advice for new high school graduates in the comments.