Career-tech programs essential to economy

Career and technical education (CTE) is not only vital to closing the skills gap seen on a major scale by many of the country’s top employers, it has become more apparent than ever just how “essential” the many essential workers who are products of this education are as the nation has grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Career and technical education is the practice of teaching students tech-based and career-oriented skills. The skills gap refers to a difference between the skills required for businesses to remain competitive and the skills potential employees actually possess. 

Despite a record-high number of people pursuing postsecondary education in the United States, Community College Daily reports that more than six million jobs went unfilled in 2018 due to an abundance of unskilled workers. In 2019, it was estimated that the skills gap could leave a damaging $2.5 trillion impact on the U.S. economy over the next decade. 

In particular, middle skill jobs, those that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree, are by-and-large the positions going unfilled. These diverse jobs include paralegals, EMTs, funeral service technicians, and respiratory therapists, among many others. According to MS Works Magazine, 57 percent of Mississippi jobs will be middle skill by 2022.

“In Mississippi, there’s a growing demand for professionals trained in key middle skills,” the magazine reports. “Mississippi employers are eager to fill jobs in industries like manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, health care, and construction. A majority of these technical jobs go unfilled.”

For middle skill workers, not only is job availability high, but many of these workers also enjoy healthy salaries without a four-year degree. As an example, MS Works reports that the annual salary for a welder in Mississippi is $44,350, with the national average hovering at $61,580.

High schools and community colleges play a vital role in strengthening the economy as they offer robust CTE programs to their communities in an effort to reduce the skills gap.

Northwest Mississippi Community College offers more than 30 different CTE programs. These programs are equipped with cutting edge technology and experienced faculty with industry-recognized credentials. For more on Northwest’s CTE programs, visit northwestms.edu.