College & Workforce Readiness

Jobs Will Require Ongoing Training, Study Finds

By Catherine Gewertz — October 10, 2016 2 min read
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As the economy tilts toward jobs that require training beyond high school, it’s bringing a dawning recognition that career readiness will require continual training throughout our work lives.

Take this blog post, for instance: Across the [ahem] decades of my career, I’ve had to learn new skills, like blogging, to keep up with the demands of journalism.

A new study by the Pew Research Center illustrates what I and many others have experienced, and what younger people can expect. It shows that Americans are aware that they can’t simply obtain a professional certification, associate degree, or even a bachelor’s degree, and call it a day. They’ve got to keep getting training to stay on top of the job market’s demands. Take a look at this chart below from the report.

The first part tells us what many other studies have shown: that the modern job market requires training beyond high school. But the second part shows that most Americans understand what that means for them.

The Pew report invites the K-12 education system to rethink its role in providing that training. The working adults who were surveyed said they bear a lot of individual responsibility for making sure they’re getting the training and education they need. But they pinned a good deal of responsibility on the K-12 education system to provide it, too.

But people are also debating the role that college should play. Only 16 percent of those surveyed said they think that a four-year college degree is good preparation for today’s job market.

Shifts in the economy “are prodding many workers to think about lifetime commitments to retraining and upgrading their skills,” the study says. “And they may be prompting a society-wide reckoning about where those constantly evolving skills should be learned—and what the role of colleges should be.”

It would be easy to assume that adults in that space between high school and college might be the most nervous about nailing down a set of solid workplace skills. But the Pew study shows that even adults with bachelor’s degrees—a level of education typically associated with employability and good income—are aware of their own vulnerability. Fully 35 percent of workers in the survey, including 27 percent of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher, say they don’t have the education and training they need to get ahead at work.

In fact, it turns out to be the adults with college degrees who are most likely to feel that they’re lacking in job readiness. The Pew study finds that 63 percent of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher say they will have to keep building their work skills throughout their careers. Among those with no college experience, only 45 percent said the same.

Here’s what people said when asked what skills they’d need for work:

Are high schools and colleges equipped to provide these skills? How well do you think they’re doing? What changes do you think are needed in the K-12 and higher education landscapes to meet the job market’s need for these skills? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.