Filling the “Middle Skills” Gap

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera has a piece today on the important role community colleges can play in filling “middle skill” jobs (i.e., jobs that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a college degree).  He interviews Gerald Chertavian, developer of Year Up, a program to enable disadvantaged high school students to acquire middle skills.

Nocera notes that Chertavian “has identified a sweet spot in the economy — matching motivated, but disadvantaged, young people with a genuine economic need. But Year Up, which operates in nine cities, can absorb only 1,400 students a year. What about the millions of others who don’t have access to a program like that? “

Most discussions of  the “skills gap” ignore that fact that much of this is driven by a combination of technology and demographics:  there are more  “middle skills” jobs now, thanks to technology.  But don’t forget that forty years ago employers had a seemingly unlimited supply of entry level workers thanks to the baby boom.  As the society’s demographics change, the systems needed to support the workforce must change.  Reliable daycare, effective ESL programs, new types of skills training options like Year Up are all necessary if the US is going to maintain an adequate supply of labor.

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