“I just finished three great reports that focus on the jobs of the future and the education needed for those jobs,” says Mike Walden, William Neal Reynolds professor of agricultural and resource economics at North Carolina State University. With the condition of today’s economy, these are reports that have important information and wide interest. Following is a summary of the key findings from them and so you can decide what conclusions can be drawn about improving the job market.
The first report is by the McKinsey Global Institute, an international consulting firm that focuses on economic and business issues. They paint a challenging picture of today’s job situation, says Walden. Over the next decade, the national economy will have to create 21 million jobs to return the unemployment rate to 5 percent by 2020. “Unfortunately, at the rate the country has been creating jobs in the last decade, we’ll only get halfway there,” he notes.
One of the issues the McKinsey folks find — and you’ve heard this many times before — is a growing mismatch between the skills of available workers and the skills needed by firms. If businesses can’t find workers with the right skills and training for their jobs, then the jobs won’t be created, will be shipped to a foreign country or will be replaced by technology or machinery.
Walden says that according to McKinsey, the country is creating too many workers with a high school diploma or less and too few workers with some college (but no degree) or a college degree. Specifically, they estimate a shortage of 3 million workers with a college degree or some college by 2020, but a surplus of over 6 million workers with a high school degree or less in that same year. The message: we need to accelerate our educational training.
The second report, from The North Carolina Commission on Workforce Development, echoes much of what the McKinsey report says, but for North Carolina. Training requirements for jobs — particularly good-paying jobs — are increasing. Jobs in the past that paid solid middle-income salaries for workers with only high school degrees are rapidly disappearing. Over the next 10 years, employment for workers with college degrees in North Carolina is forecast to grow twice as fast as jobs for workers with high school degrees or less.
So the take-away message from these two reports might be, go to college in order to get a job, Walden says. Certainly this is an important message. Indeed, today’s unemployment rate for workers who have a college degree is about half that for workers without that higher education diploma.