Georgetown: ‘Middle’ skills lead to middle-class jobs

Career and technical education is “the missing middle ground in American education and workforce preparation,”  concludes a new Georgetown report, Five Ways That Pay Along the Way to the B.A. Some 29 million middle-class jobs — 21 percent of all jobs — are open to workers with employer-based training, industry-based certifications, apprenticeships, postsecondary certificates and associate’s degrees, according to the study, jointly released with Civic Enterprises. These jobs pay $35,000 to $75,000 annually;  nearly 40 percent pay more than $50,000 a year.

The U.S. ranks second in the world in the share of workers with bachelor’s degrees, but only 16th in sub-baccalaureate credentials, Georgetown advises.

“Compared to other advanced economies, the United States underinvests in sub-baccalaureate, career and technical education,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, the Center’s Director and the report’s lead author.

In the postindustrial economy, career tech jobs are shifting from blue collar to white: Only one third of CTE jobs are blue collar, half are white collar and 15 percent are in health care.  However, men still hold 18 out of the 29 million middle-class “middle” jobs.

For both men and women, the best jobs are in sub-baccalaureate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and health care, where over 80 percent of jobs pay middle-class wages.

While four-year graduates earn more, on average, than middle-skill workers, certificates and associate degrees can be a step on the path to a bachelor’s degree in time, the report notes.

Career and technical education has lost federal funding in recent years, points out the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Obama administration cut millions from programs created by the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act. Georgetown urges the federal government to invest in career tech, setting up a “learning and earning exchange” to show students how to qualify for middle-class jobs. The report also urges integrating high school and postsecondary CTA with employer-based training.

“We need more pathways to postsecondary education,” Mr. Carnevale says. “Without that, we are creating a class-based society in America.”

. . . The exchange would provide students with information about specific training and education needed for jobs. In addition, educators could better tailor their programs to the job market, and employers would have a way to find new workers.

Employer training is the largest path to a middle-skill job, the report found. Postsecondary certificates — awarded to one million Americans a year — are now the second most common credential, after the bachelor’s degree. Some 800,000 earn associate degrees, but only half of those are in career fields such as nursing, business, and information technology. Registered apprenticeships reach 400,000 Americans; 90 percent are male.