By Dr. Scott Alsobrooks, PRCC
The Picayune Item
At quick glance, it is easy to see that the Mississippi economy will only need about 25 percent of its workforce at the bachelor’s level or higher. Most jobs still require only a high school degree, but many well paying jobs will require some sort of 2 year degree or a post high school type credential such as a certificate in welding, carpentry or plumbing.
Overall, the Mississippi economy will require about 57percent of it’s workforce to have some type of credential obtained after high school, but the graduation stats indicate that we are not on the path to meet this projection. The Georgetown report indicates this as well. A direct quote taken from the report concerning the US economy says it all, “By 2018, the postsecondary system will have produced 3 million fewer college graduates than demanded by the labor market.”
Georgetown’s analysis also provides great insight into earnings expectations as well. After all, it can be taken for granted that a large percentage of education seekers complete high school and college with the goal of obtaining a satisfying career.
Education level with estimated lifetime earnings:
Less than high school degree — $1,198,447
High school graduate — $1,767,025
Some college — $2,239,548
Associate’s degree — $2,254,765
Bachelor’s degree — $3,380,060
Master’s degree — $3,837,239
Professional degree — $4,650,588
Ph. D. — $4,029,948
After having digested all of this labor market information one might question what this has to do with locally elected school boards and local control (or lack thereof) of our schools. It appears that we are preparing students to be test takers and not shipbuilders, offshore petroleum technicians, respiratory technicians, etc, etc.
Every student should be given the opportunity to learn and prepare themselves for a bachelor’s degree; but students should not be deprived the opportunity to learn a craft or skill and go forth and earn that extra $500k to $1 million that could be gained by going to where the jobs are projected to be. Remember a large share of the jobs in Mississippi will be in areas that require a post high school credential or associate’s degree.
While we are busy testing our students and comparing their achievement scores to schools in foreign countries, we fail to recognize that the countries that we make comparison to only send about 33 percent of their students down the university path. The others that wish to do work in applied, hands-on careers, take the vocational route and are not counted in their scoring system.
The US tests most students which has lead to a decimation of the vocational education programs at many local high schools. Resources are placed in getting students prepared for scoring well on standardized tests and not for the actual job market. Until the rules are changed, it will be tough for an elected or appointed school board member to “right the ship.”