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The value of a skill

Dr. Scott Alsobrooks, Pearl River Community College Vice President for economic and community development, believes that the demand for skilled laborers in today’s economy is strong and will continue to increase in the foreseeable future.

“The economy is starved for technical workers,” said Alsobrooks, “Companies these days are looking for technical trades and the numbers continue to suggest strong growth in these jobs.”

Alsobrooks said that anywhere from 300 to 400 students get their GEDs from the Pearl River Community College’s adult education program. He added that there is a need for students who get their GED to pursue a trade that does not require a four-year degree.

“Having a GED or a high school diploma used to be enough to get a good job,” said Alsobrooks, “but not anymore.”

Jobs that require more than a high school education, but less than a four-year degree are commonly referred to as “middle skill” jobs, and the demand for these positions is not going away. Alsobrooks believes that as more of the Baby Boomer generation begins to leave the workforce, the availability of these positions will continue to increase.

The National Skills Coalition released information that states 55 percent of Mississippi’s jobs between 2010 and 2020 will be middle skill positions, while only 50 percent of Mississippi’s workforce is trained at the middle skill level. It’s not just Mississippi; the data also reveals that middle skill positions make up the bulk of America’s labor market.

When asked if a negative perception of these jobs existed, Alsobrooks said he felt there was.

“I think there is an unfair shadow cast on vocational trades and skill workers,” said Alsobrooks. He said that at one point in our nation’s history, there were people working in these positions for low wages in poor health conditions, but it is not that way anymore; these are now highly technical positions – good jobs where one can make a very good living.

Alsobrooks said that the consistent evolution of the economy and technology is the one constant that can be counted on, so there will be a continuing need for skilled workers in allied healthcare, petroleum and manufacturing fields.

“You can earn a good living with a technical degree, and you can get that right here at PRCC,” said Alsobrooks.