Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Need for Middle Skills in the Labor Force

Mark Knold, Supervising Economist

How many of you who are parents aspire for your children to grow up and attain a middle skill? More than likely that isn’t on your aspiration radar. A four-year college degree or higher is probably more along the lines you envision for Junior. There’s nothing wrong with that. Yet there is a large and growing opportunity for good jobs and sustainable careers in what we call middle skills—more than a high school degree, but less than a four-year degree. We have gone multiple decades where our aspirations were to send our kids around and past these jobs—jobs that require mechanical, technical, or other specialized trainings.

The decline in labor needs by America’s manufacturing base for roughly the past 40 years may be the focal point of why America shied away from middle skill training. But as usually happens, too much of a bad thing can come back to haunt you.

Bridge the Gap: Rebuilding America's Middle Skills
Click to enlarge

Now the cry is that America doesn’t have enough middle skill workers, and the business community says their need for middle skill workers will only increase over the next 20 years. The arguments are out that this middle skill gap needs to close or the American economy will be pinched. Since Utah functions within the American economy, America’s needs are also Utah’s needs. Are these fears founded?

This study sheds light on the subject and looks at the middle skill landscape in America. It is a joint effort between Harvard Business School and several business partners. I suppose the name Harvard on the label makes it worth the read.

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