More focus on "middle jobs," study urges
September 25, 2012 - A new study just out picks up on the same message that framed the Pathways to Prosperity report issued in 2011: America needs to focus more attention on post-secondary education that doesn't always aim at a four-year college degree.
The study, from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, argues that "middle jobs" -- those requiring more than high school but less than a bachelor's degree -- offer access to middle class wages of at least $35,000 a year and opportunities for advancement. Those jobs account for one of every five jobs in the U.S. economy, the study says, and nearly half of all jobs that pay middle-class wages. In all, "middle jobs" -- which include nurses, mechanics, electricians, office workers and many others -- represent 29 million of the roughly 139 million jobs in the U.S. labor market, the study says.
But the nation should be doing more to strengthen pathways to those jobs, the study's authors argue, largely by strengthening career and technical education with larger investments and closer alignment between secondary and post-secondary programs and with employer-based training programs. At the same time, the study notes, many of those who begin their post-secondary education in a two-year program or to earn an industry-based certification eventually go on to earn a bachelor's degree.
The dramatic economic shifts over that last few decades that have made education past high school essential also means more focus on pathways other than just a four-year degree.
"Today, high school is designed to prepare students for further learning in school or on the job," the study observes. "The ability to pass on middle-class standing to children depends on giving them a strategic post-secondary educational advantage of some kind."
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