A new report highlights a growing mismatch between the types of job openings here and the level of education that Washington public-school students are achieving.
Only about 31 percent of the high-school class of 2006 had earned a postsecondary credential, including a college degree, by 2013 — a significant mismatch with the types of jobs being created in Washington and the level of education needed to get them, according to a new study by the Washington Roundtable.
The study reiterates what other reports have found about low levels of college attainment in this state, and underscores the degree to which Washington students will miss out on the coming wave of lucrative job openings in the next five years.
According to the study, commissioned by the Roundtable, about 69 percent of high-school students from 2006 have no degree, not even a certificate from a community college or a professional license. More than 20 percent of those students are high-school dropouts.
Roundtable President Steve Mullin called the results alarming. And his organization — a public-policy group of business leaders — has set a goal: By 2030, it wants to more than double the percentage of students who have a college degree or other type of credential by age 26.
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If that happens, he said, not only would more students have better jobs, everyone in Washington would benefit from a reduction in the state’s unemployment and poverty rates.
In the next five years, the Roundtable report says, 740,000 jobs will open in Washington — a number three times higher than the projected growth rate for the U.S. economy.
Well over half those jobs will require a postsecondary credential — a college degree, a certificate or apprenticeship.
About 300,000 of those jobs will be new positions, but most — 58 percent — will be jobs open because of retirements and people leaving the state. It includes baby-boom Boeing machinists and engineers, who will retire by the tens of thousands in the coming years.
About 35 percent of the openings will be what the report labels “career jobs,” or jobs with a salary range of $60,000 to $100,000. More than 90 percent of those workers will need a credential — a bachelor’s degree or other advanced training.
An additional 45 percent of the openings will be “pathway jobs,” or jobs that pay about $30,000 to $45,000 and offer a path to better pay. About two-thirds of job hopefuls for those positions will need a college degree or credential.
Only about 20 percent of the job openings, labeled “entry level” by the report and paying $20,000 to $30,000 a year, will call for the low level of education most Washington students are achieving today.
The state’s fastest-growing, highest-paying companies will continue to need to go beyond Washington to find employees with the skills and training they need to fill jobs, because there are just too many jobs for the number of workers living here. The Roundtable analysts don’t consider that a bad thing; it makes the workforce more diverse.
But it does mean Washington kids aren’t getting enough education to compete for many of the good job openings, Mullin said.
The skills gap goes beyond the much-talked-about need for software engineers at the area’s tech giants, he said. The state also needs nurses, machinists, store managers, engineers, electrical line workers, construction workers, cybersecurity analysts — a long list of professions that pay at least $50,000 a year, and many far more.
A few caveats: The report, written by the Boston Consulting Group, doesn’t cover private schools, which graduated about 6 percent of the approximately 67,000 students in the class of 2006, according to the Western Interstate Higher Education Commission.
The report is based on work by the Washington State Education Research and Data Center, which estimates that about 42 percent of the students who graduated in 2006 earned a postsecondary credential by 2013.
However, that report didn’t take into account students who dropped out of high school; about 25 percent of the class of 2006 dropped out of school and never graduated. (The dropout rate has since gone down, to 20 percent.)
And the report doesn’t look beyond seven years after graduation, even though some studies suggest that Washington students in their mid-20s do better than the national average when it comes to returning to community college, and using it as a launchpad to a four-year degree.
The study’s release comes a few months before the Legislature will begin debating its biennial budget and will decide how much more it needs to invest in K-12 education to settle the McCleary school-funding case.
“Our hope for this session is that new resources get focused where they’re most needed,” particularly to chronically underperforming schools, Mullin said.
The Roundtable also wants more money going to early learning, especially for low-income families.
The policy group also wants to continue to see strong funding of the state’s two- and four-year colleges, and has called for increased teacher effectiveness, expanded STEM education, and career and college readiness for all students. It also supports public charter schools.
Later this year, the Roundtable will release a second report with more specific recommendations.