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More educated workers needed for new jobs

Jul. 14, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

A new look at the jobs of the future sends a strong message about education.

If you are in high school, stay in school and finish.

If you have only a high school diploma, think about some additional schooling or training.

If you never finished high school, get to work on your GED.

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reports that the United States is on track to create 55 million new job openings by 2020. Although we have not seen much of it in recent years, about 21 million of those openings will come from actual job growth, the researchers predict. But the bigger change -- accounting for about 31 million jobs -- will come from the retirement of the baby boom generation.

But as we have heard so many times in recent years, many of those jobs will demand more education, and the Georgetown study predicts the nation will come up short on workers with the education to fill those positions -- by about 5 million workers or 10 percent of the jobs.

Overall, about 65 percent of those openings will require some postsecondary education and training, up from 28 percent in 1973.

In some areas, such as the District of Columbia and Minnesota, the demand for well-educated workers will be even higher, almost 75 percent of the openings, the study says. In West Virginia, the demand for postsecondary workers will be much less, about 55 percent of vacancies. The forecast for Kentucky and Ohio is closer to the national average, at 62 percent and 64 percent.

But none of the states in our region could meet that demand today. For example, the study estimates that only about 45 percent of the West Virginia workforce has some postsecondary education, which would range from some college to 1-2 degrees to advanced degrees. In Kentucky and Ohio, the figure is closer to 55 percent, but still below the projected need.

It's also important that students get the degrees and training that will be in demand. For example, the fastest-growing occupations will require postsecondary education in subjects such as healthcare, science, technology, engineering, math and education.

"We also need to create better transparency so that people actually know what to expect from the type of degree that they engage in," Nicole Smith at Georgetown University said.

In West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, many of those potential job openings will not require a traditional four-year college degree, but more workers with the right associate degree or technical training. On the other hand, the demand for workers with little or no education will be low and shrinking.

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