Where are the jobs?

Published 7:00 am Friday, May 27, 2016

A question that I often get asked is “what type of education do I need to get a good job?”
Well, I could provide a lot of anecdotal answers to that question, but instead, let’s concentrate on hard cold facts. The first fact is that most jobs in Mississippi, and the surrounding region, require some level of education beyond a high school degree, but not necessarily a four-year degree. The data below, drawn from a Hope Institute report, clearly shows that most jobs in Mississippi are defined as middle skills jobs.
Exactly what is a middle skill job? The National Skills Coalition defines a middle skill job as one that requires more education and training than a high school diploma but less than a four year degree. Data from the Hope Policy Institute Analysis of National Skills Coalition indicates a mismatch in the number of middle skill jobs and the available workers in Mississippi. The Mississippi economy shows a demand of about 59 percent of jobs require mid-level skills; however, only about half of the workforce has these type skills.
According to a Mississippi Works Report endorsed by Governor Phil Bryant, there are more than 35,000 jobs unfilled in this state. Employers have a difficult time finding candidates with the proper skill level to support Mississippi’s economy.
This is not just a Mississippi phenomenon. The Harvard Business School report, Bridge the Gap: Rebuilding America’s Middle Skills, cites mismatches such as these as tumultuous to national and local economies and workers therein, as stated below in a report titled:
The cumulative effects of those trends are now fully apparent in the United States. Underemployment is rampant for both middle-skills workers and recent college graduates. Too few have highly marketable skills; too many have pursued courses of study for which there is little demand. Ballooning student debt threatens the future of graduates and looms over the federal budget. Employers find it hard to fill occupations ranging from healthcare technicians to technical sales and service. Companies cite fears about the availability of skilled labor as a major deterrent to their growth plans. The current system is failing to serve the interests of employers and aspiring workers alike.
How do we fix the problem? The most common way for individuals to enter these middle skill jobs is to enroll in a career and technical education program offered at both the high school and community college level. Students can earn credentials, certificates and degrees in these programs.
Community college programs are quite suited to adults that are changing careers.
There are also integrated pathways at the community college level for individuals that might not have earned a high school diploma. Like other community colleges in Mississippi, students entering Pearl River Community College without a high school diploma can enter a career pathway program that integrates a high school equivalence program with a skills program. Referred to as MI-BEST, this program prepares those who need foundational skills for careers by mixing career training with additional support for math, writing, and reading. This approach helps students learn the skills needed to succeed in school and compete in the workforce by incorporating technical and basic skills education. Other support services are provided to assist the student with college entrance, assessment tests, and job counseling and placement.
Labor statistics document the fact that a majority of the jobs in Mississippi do not require advanced degrees; that is fact. An excellent way for people to enter these high demand fields is to enter a career and technical education program while in high school, or at a local community college. Pearl River Community College offers three integrated career pathways that incorporate 10 programs.
These pathways are healthcare, construction and metal trades. The programs contained in these three pathways are Certified Nursing Assistant, Business Management Technology, Medical Billing and Coding, Construction Equipment Operations, Commercial Truck Driving, Masonry, Electrical Technology, HVAC Technology, Welding, Pipe Fitting and Precision Machining.

By Scott Alsobrooks

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