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Pathways to Great Jobs for Washington Students in Washington State

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October 05, 2016

There will be 740,000 job openings in the next five years—are Washington’s students prepared to get those good jobs? Job growth here is expected to nearly triple the projected national growth rate. 

Thanks to strong anchor employers, growth in new companies and industries, and workers retiring or leaving the state, students sitting in our classrooms today will enter a job market bursting with opportunities. The question is, will they be ready?

Looking at publicly available data and hiring forecasts from Washington Roundtable member companies, we examined the scope and types of job opportunities that will be available, the associated skills requirements for those jobs, and how the education attainment of Washington students compares to future marketplace demand.

What we found summons us to action.

Increasingly, the jobs of the future will be filled by workers with postsecondary credentials, ranging from industry-specific certificates to two- and four-year degrees. 

Job openings fall into three categories based on income and opportunities for upward mobility:

  • Thirty-five percent (or 260,000) of projected openings will be “career jobs.” These are higher skill jobs with more opportunities for advancement and higher compensation (salary range of $60,000 to $100,000+). Examples include registered nurses, teachers, and systems analysts. More than nine in 10 workers who fill these positions will have a postsecondary credential (73 percent) or some college (18 percent).
  • The largest number of openings – 45 percent (or 330,000 jobs) – will be “pathway jobs.” These jobs offer salaries ranging from $30,000 to $45,000 per year and a route to a career job. Examples include service and retail jobs, office administration and skilled trades. Workers with a credential or some college will fill nearly two-thirds of these jobs.
  • Just 20 percent (or 150,000) of job openings will be “entry-level.” These positions – in fields like food service, farm labor and housekeeping – offer opportunities to gain important work experience. Workers with a credential or some college will fill nearly half of them. Salaries average $20,000 to $30,000 per year and there is rarely a route to upward mobility without additional education or training.

The clear takeaway is that good jobs will be available here and most will be filled by workers with a credential or some college. But right now, fewer than 1 in 3 Washington state students go on to earn a postsecondary credential.

The number of Washington students who go on to complete training or college after high school must more than double if our students are to be prepared for the jobs of the future.

The Washington Roundtable has set an ambitious goal: By 2030, 70 percent of Washington students will earn a postsecondary credential by the age of 26. 

In a class of 81,000 students, 70 percent postsecondary attainment means 31,000 more students will acquire a credential. Each will earn nearly $1 million more over his or her lifetime. Their success will reduce unemployment by a third and cut poverty by nearly half, saving our state $3.5 billion a year in social spending.

Washington should adopt a “cradle to career” approach to raising the postsecondary attainment rate, with action in four areas:

1. Improve school readiness, emphasizing services to low-income children and traditionally underserved populations.

2. Improve the performance of the K-12 system to ensure that more students graduate career- and college ready.

3. Increase participation of Washington students in postsecondary education, focusing on high-demand fields.

4. Help students, beginning in elementary school, understand career opportunities, inspiring them to think about their futures and develop necessary skills.

In the nation’s 7th fastest growing state economy, Washington’s students should be the first in line for great jobs—but that will only happen if employers and educators work together. Learn more at waroundtable.com.

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Steve Mullin is president of the Washington Roundtable. Joel Janda is a partner and managing director at The Boston Consulting Group.

 
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