Theres Money in the Middle
Welcome to what economists now call the middle skills jobs gap, where theres a dire need for people to fill jobs that require workers with more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree.
Some 69 million people work in middle-skills jobs, representing about 48 percent of the U.S. labor force. That about squares with South Carolina, wheremiddle-skills jobs account for half of all jobs, according to figures from the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.
And yet, as baby boomers retire, the middle is also shrinking. According to the Harvard Business Review, as many as 25 million, or 47 percent, of all new job openings from 2010 to 2020 will fall into the middle-skills range.
In other words, theres a great demand for people to fill solid, reliable and well-paying jobs that only require a high-school degree and some additional training of one to two years.
At Midlands Tech, a one-year certificate program runs an average cost of $5,000 for tuition and books; the cost is about $7,500 for a year and a half diploma program, and about $10,000 for a two-year associates degree. Scholarship assistance may be available through either a federal Pell grant (about $5,500 a year) depending on need or S.C. Lottery Tuition Assistance ($2,000), which is available to most applicants. Hot Fields: Health Care, Advanced Manufacturing, IT and Energy Midlands Technical College President Sonny White says there are as many as 12,000 jobs in the Midlands in four cluster areas of health care, advanced manufacturing, information technology and energy.
The boom in middle-skills jobs is reflective of what has long been an economic reality: a four-year college degree no longer guarantees a job. Thats part of the reason, White says, why 80 percent of his students start at age 25 or older. Theyve either gone to college and quit or stuck it out and found their diploma just didnt have that much purchasing power in the modern job market.
Among the top middle-skills jobs in the Midlands, White cites the boom in information technology jobs, particularly ones necessary to Columbias booming insurance industry.
A job as a web developer, network analyst or network administrator requires a two-year associates degree, and generally pays between $35,000 and $100,000 annually. The job prospects are outstanding in our area, White says.
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