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Despite all the debate about the value of a college education - I say college, yes; crushing debt, no - a new report reiterates something we already knew: It's getting harder than ever to attain middle-class status without some postsecondary education.
The report by the Georgetown University Center for Education in the Workforce looks at where the jobs will be through 2018 for those with a high-school diploma, an associate degree and a bachelor's degree. It builds upon previous work showing a growing disconnect between available jobs and those with the skills to fill them.
It found that for those with only a high school diploma, jobs paying $35,000 a year, its benchmark for entry into the middle class, would be clustered in four male-dominated sectors: manufacturing, architecture and construction, distribution and logistics, and hospitality. It concluded that to get there, women would need two more years of schooling in an occupation such as health care.
A woman just can't make it with only a high-school diploma.
The 100-page report looks at clusters of jobs at each educational level and echoes my colleague Don Tennant's mantra that IT will be a good place for our kids to be. It notes that IT careers can begin without even an associate degree, a position that CompTIA's Gretchen Koch stressed during an interview last month. According to the report:
The fastest-growing career cluster, Information Technology, is also the cluster with the highest overall share of postsecondary employment, most of which requires a bachelor's degree or better. Although the employment share for workers with some college/no degree or an associate's degree is not projected to grow nearly as fast as the share for workers with a bachelor's degree or better, shorter-length programs may still have an important role: providing technical skill updates or providing workers with a bachelor's degree in another career cluster (e.g., business) if the worker has initial technical skills
It notes that though manufacturing has long provided career options for those without postsecondary degrees, it, too, will require more education in the coming years as more automation comes into play:
... in manufacturing, the share of employment for workers with some college/no degree, an associates' degree or a bachelor's degree is projected to increase. This trend reflects the continuing shift toward automation and production organization that requires individual to possess problem-solving, math and communication skills.
Overall, the report projects that IT and STEM careers (science, technology, engineering, math) will provide salaries and opportunities well beyond entry into the middle class.