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Postsecondary Education in Perceived Blue-Collar Jobs

MechanicIn the 1950s, when a student reached high school, there were often three future possibilities. A third of students would graduate from high school and go on to college, a third would graduate and move right into the workforce or military, and a third would drop out to find a job.

We now know that postsecondary education is a necessity for one seeking a career in the 21st century.  Recently, The New York Times explored this shift in educational demands in its piece, Wanted: Factory Workers, Degrees Required.

In his article, the Times’ Jeffrey J. Selingo details a Siemans plant opening in North Carolina, with 10,000 individuals seeking the 800 available jobs. Company officials noted to The New York Times that fewer than 15 percent of applicants possessed the academic skills they were seeking, skills set at a ninth grade level.

The article makes clear that a high school diploma is no longer sufficient to successfully undertake jobs in modern-day factories, particularly those that are computer dependent. As a result, companies are now working with community colleges and other postsecondary institutions to ensure a workforce with the skills and education needed to do the available jobs. As the article noted:

Faced with a skills gap, employers are increasingly working with community colleges to provide students with both the academic education needed to succeed in today’s work force and the specific hands-on skills to get a job in their companies. John Deere, for example, has designed a curriculum and donated farm equipment to several community colleges to train technicians for its dealer network. About 15 to 20 students come through the program at Walla Walla each semester. Because they are sponsored by a John Deere dealership, where the students work for half the program, most graduate in two years with a job in hand. Technicians start at salaries just shy of $40,000, on average.

This is just another example of the importance of everyone exploring the career paths that best align with their interests and aptitudes AND knowing what skills and credentials are necessary to secure those jobs. Regardless of career sector, it is becoming more and more evident that a strong work ethic and a high school diploma are no longer a guarantee of a good job.

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