Wednesday, October 07, 2009

"Middle Skills"

RI Future:

A fantastic report was released today by The Workforce Alliance (as part of its national Skills2Compete Campaign) called “Rhode Island’s Forgotten Middle-Skill Jobs.”  As you can guess, the report tells a good story about what we need to do as a state in order to grow our economy, and it discusses the importance of cultivating a workforce with the appropriate skill set to meet the current and future demands for specific types of labor.  Much of the data comes from the U.S. Census, the state’s Department of Labor and Training, and from The Poverty Institute.

In Rhode Island, we have a large demand for middle-skill jobs: these are jobs with more than a high school education, but less than a Bachelor’s degree.  47% of future job growth (the largest share of future jobs in Rhode Island) will be jobs requiring these middle-skills.  These jobs are within health and life sciences, consumer product design and manufacturing, hospitality and tourism, marine related industries, defense electronics, and biotech.

This is the real workplace preparedness problem, one which is not helped by a blanket appeal to send all kids to "college." Responsible people will, when pressed, explain that by "college" they don't really necessarily mean "college," particularly a bachelor's degree, but it isn't helpful rhetoric. This is one case where a new term -- "middle skills" -- might clarify the situation and lead to a more honest and substantive discussion.

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