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Better Support Required for Middle-Skill Positions

The United States currently has 29 million available jobs with a salary range of $35,000 to $75,000 per year. At the same time, the current unemployment rate is 8.2%, and this statistic does not include the huge number of individuals who are considered long-term unemployed—defined by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics as out of work for 27 weeks or longer.

The question is, how can those jobs be filled? Last week, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce released a report that gives some sense of the answer; increase investment in career and technical education to move individuals into well-paying middle-class jobs.

The report, “Career and Technical Education: Five Ways That Pay Along the Way to the B.A.” provides readers a detailed look at five pathways that provide career and technical training; employer-based training, postsecondary certificates, registered apprenticeships, industry-based certifications and associate degrees.

The report’s lead author and the director of the Center on Education and the Workforce, Anthony Carnevale, told Jennifer Gonzalez of The Chronicle of Higher Education that while the middle-skill path to employment is underfunded in the United States, it is still available and is currently being used by more than 15 million students as a path to employment.

“We don’t have that missing middle,” he said.

The report recommends the federal government establish an exchange that clearly identifies the link between career and technical education and the labor market. It also recommends the development of career and technical education programming that integrates high-school and post-secondary curricula with employer-based training.

Accounting for more than 75 percent of the middle-skill jobs are blue-collar, managerial and professional-office, and sales and office support occupations, according to the report.

The Executive Director of the National Skills Coalition, Andy Van Kleunen, told Gonzalez that for too long the United States’ higher education system has focused on bachelor’s and master’s degree attainment, leaving too little attention on middle-skill positions.

“We overshot,” he said. “There are good jobs and good pathways toward quality employment in the middle-skills area.”