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Employment Facts for Today's Students

by Doug Conwell


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A recent national report published by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that 99% of the job growth that has occurred since 2008 has gone to workers with some post-secondary education.  Of the 11.6 million jobs created since 2008, 11.5 million went to workers with more than a high school diploma.  Approximately 8.4 million of these jobs 11.5 million jobs went to workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher.  Employment for workers with a high school diploma or less grew by approximately 80,000 jobs during the recovery.  It’s essential that all students graduate from high school.  Looking forward, the Georgetown Policy Institute now projects that 71% of the job market will require some post-secondary education.   Of that 71%, half of those jobs will require a technical certificate or an Associate’s Degree while the other half will require a four-year degree.

Today’s economy simply requires that workers have skills and training that are beyond a high school degree.  As I stated recently, in 2014 we saw 83% of USD 417 students pursue some form of a post-secondary education.  That’s great!  However, the percent of students who finish any type of post-secondary education ranges from 45-60%.  We must improve on the percentage of our students who actually complete either a technical certificate, Associate’s degree or a Bachelor’s degree. 

In 2016, for the first time in history, more workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher, (36%) were employed than those workers with only a high school education or less (34%).  The remaining 30% of workers have something more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree.  There have been significant shifts in the types of employment in the past seventy years.  This has helped to shape our current workforce.  For example, jobs such as manufacturing, construction, and natural resources, shifted from employing nearly half of our workforce in 1947 to only 19% in 2016.  Conversely, occupations such as healthcare, business, financial, education and government services grew from 28% in 1947 to 46% in 2016.  Meanwhile during this time, office and administrative support jobs lost 1.4 million jobs since 2008 primarily because of automation and digital services.

The point here is to illustrate what is happening in the job market in the United States.  Those who make a living forecasting employment trends have been sharing this information for many years.  The recent recession simply speeded up this process.  The recession also punctuated the fact that people have not really been paying attention to these forecasts.  If there is a main theme for parents and students, it is that today’s economy requires our students to attain a post-secondary education in some form.